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Would Killing the Minimum Wage Help?

Many economists see little job creation from abolishing the law

Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has soft-pedaled her opposition to the minimum wage law considerably since 2005, when she was quoted as saying, at a Minnesota State Senate hearing, “Literally, if we took away the minimum wage—if conceivably it was gone—we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.” Appearing on CBS‘s Face the Nation on June 26, Bachmann would say only that eliminating the minimum wage is “something that obviously Congress would have to look at” as a solution to high unemployment.

Campaign trail positioning aside, would repealing the minimum wage really make a dent in the U.S. jobless rate, which was 9.1 percent in May? While economists don’t all agree, the bulk of research points to only small potential job gains—if any—from a suspension of the minimum wage. In a 2000 survey of 308 academic economists, just under half agreed fully that the minimum wage increases unemployment among “young and unskilled workers.” The rest agreed with that statement with provisos or not at all.