Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Businessweek
Economics

The Burger Flipper Who Became a World Expert on the Minimum Wage

Arindrajit Dube’s research has shaped a new consensus on a controversial topic in economics.

A worker cleans a sidewalk table outside Eat at Joe’s restaurant in Redondo Beach, Calif., on Nov. 30, 2020.

A worker cleans a sidewalk table outside Eat at Joe’s restaurant in Redondo Beach, Calif., on Nov. 30, 2020.

Photographer: Mike Blake/Reuters
Updated on

As a 16-year-old kid flipping burgers at a Seattle McDonald’s in 1989, Arindrajit Dube was earning the state minimum wage of $3.85 an hour. “I remember feeling privileged that I was going to go on to college, while there were many older workers working at that wage,” he recalls.

He still thinks about the minimum wage, only now it’s from his perch at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he’s possibly the world’s leading authority on its economic effects. Dube’s research is guaranteed to get a bigger audience as Democrats in Congress attempt to make good on President Biden’s pledge to raise the federal wage floor to $15 an hour by 2025.