As those who have been following along already know, Seattle has been ground zero for the minimum wage battle, having raised it earlier this year.
Critics of the higher minimum – of any minimum at all, actually – have been twisting and torturing data in a pathetic attempt to prove the higher wage is having a deleterious effect. I’ve been addressing those idiotic arguments for over six months now, and it appears there’s no end in sight.
The Atlantic runs with a story that leans on a “report” out of the American Action Forum that purports to demonstrate that “hiring has slowed in the cities that changed their policies this year,” although “it’s probably too early to tell, economists say.”
As an aside, here’s a brief rant to those – like The Atlantic’s Russell Berman – who call themselves journalists: Data can be like women. They can be somewhat hard to understand. It can be hard to figure out exactly what they’re saying to you. You can easily misinterpret them. Sometimes you need someone else to explain them to you. Sometimes you think they’re saying one thing, when in fact they’re saying something else entirely. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you’re looking in the wrong places, at the wrong things. And while understanding women probably isn’t essential to your job, understanding data is. So, my suggestion to you is that you spend a bit of time understanding what it is you’re writing about before you write it so I don’t have to waste my time, and embarrass you, debunking it.
Moving on, the piece on which Berman relied, at the American Action Forum, has no problem acknowledging its own worthlessness. While the piece purports to analyze the early effects of a higher minimum wage in cities that have enacted one, we see the AAF has actually done no such thing:
I know what you’re thinking – how can a report analyzing the effects of a higher minimum wage in certain cities not have “directly analyze[d] the cities that raised the minimum wages?” An excellent question. And to answer your next question, “analyzing employment trends in the entire metropolitan areas” yields virtually no reliable, dependable data on how the minimum wage is impacting the areas that enacted it. In short, the whole exercise is a waste of everyone’s time (most definitely including mine).
Since I’ve already done the city of Seattle versus Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) thing to death, let’s have a little fun with the AAF’s use of the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Metropolitan Division.
Here’s how the government defines the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Metropolitan Division:
By my count, that’s a total of six (6) counties that comprise the MD. Geographically, visually, it looks like this:
Here are the numbers behind the visual:
So, some 2,000,000 people reside outside the area in which the minimum wage was raised. And that area, at 3,951 square miles, is some 17 times larger than Chicago proper. The numbers aren’t as dramatic as the situation in Seattle, where the city proper is much smaller in population and square mileage than its MSA, but making inferences from the Chicago data are as useless as they are in Seattle, to be sure.
None of this, of course, will stop ideologues like Mark Perry or the American Action Forum from disseminating shoddy and useless information. But perhaps it will give some pause before they believe everything they see or hear, and beyond that, maybe it will give “journalists” like Mr. Berman a bit of a kick in the pants to do their jobs better and understand the subject matter about which they write. And a special shout-out to the AAF’s Ben Gitis, who wrote the “paper” that would line the bottom of my bird’s cage, if I had one.