American job seekers think increasing the minimum wage would be good for them, and the country

Both advocates and opponents talk a lot about how a minimum wage increase would affect Americans who are trying to find jobs. For the first time, we have insight into what job seekers themselves think about minimum-wage issues, thanks to newly-released data from the American National Election Survey.

The majority of job seekers report that raising the minimum wage to keep pace with the cost of living would be good for them personally. In fact, ten times as many job seekers report that minimum-wage increases would be good for their lives (66.5 percent) than report that it would be bad for their lives (6.5 percent). By a seven-to-one margin, they think it would be good (71.0 percent), rather than bad (10.1 percent), for America overall.

Here are the details. The data come from the American National Election Survey collected in December 2011 (ANES EGSS3 preliminary), which surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 1315 Americans including 126 job seekers. Job seekers are those currently not working and looking for work as well as those working part time but who would prefer full-time work. Using post-stratification weights among respondents, here are the questions and results.

Proposal: Raise the minimum wage every year to keep pace with inflation.

Would this be good, bad, or neither good nor bad for you personally?

Responses Percentage Cumulative
Extremely good 28.0 28.0
Moderately good 23.1 51.1
A little good 15.4 66.5
Neither good nor bad 27.1 93.6
A little bad 3.7 97.2
Moderately bad 2.8 100.0
Extremely bad 0.0 100.0

Would this be good, bad, or neither good nor bad for the country?

Responses Percentage Cumulative
Extremely good 31.0 31.0
Moderately good 14.1 45.1
A little good 25.9 71.0
Neither good nor bad 19.0 90.0
A little bad 2.2 92.1
Moderately bad 5.2 97.3
Extremely bad 2.7 100.0

Knowing that job-seekers—those with among the most to lose if opponents of increasing the minimum wage were correct in predicting job-loss—so clearly favor increasing the minimum wage to help workers keep up with inflation should matter to policy makers. Instead of listening only to talking heads speaking in the name of job-seekers, let’s hear the voices of job-seekers themselves.

Aaron Sojourner is a labor economist at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.