The Politics of Research

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The debate over the minimum wage is an excellent example of the ways in which numbers can be manipulated for interpretation by the party that happens to be conducting, or reviewing, that day's given study. There are politicians, and economists, who see the minimum wage as one of several governmental tools for making the economic opportunities of the people as equal as possible.


Sheila Dow has gathered several economists to review Card and Krueger's important work Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage, and what is more important than what any of these individual reviewers has to say is the collective impression left by the reviewers: the politics of research play a far larger role than do the numbers themselves. Finis Welch is left calling for an entirely new set of standards to govern the process of economic research and interpretation (Dow 2002).
Several of the reviewers in this article refer to the design of what Card and Krueger call their "natural experiments" designed to see how an increased minimum wage would affect employment. One of the primary arguments against an increase in minimum wage has been that employers would be forced to reduce their workforce numbers to accommodate the higher wage - or to raise prices to such a degree as to render the increased wage negligible. Card and Krueger find as their conclusion that this argument is not true - they conclude that the effect on employment of a higher minimum wage is almost nonexistent. ...
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