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The Independent Institute
Working Paper #30

Minimum Wages For Women Only


Abstract: This paper reviews the experience of the first-in-the-nation Massachusetts minimum wage law, which applied to women only, in light of contemporary minimum wage theory, and using the heretofore underutilized annual survey of manufacturing then conducted by the state. Consistent with contemporary minimum wage theory, the law is found to have reduced employment of women, increased employment of men and of capital, and eliminated "slack time" for women workers. Examining changes in the distribution of wages in several industries subject to wage decrees from 1914 to 1922, in four, where the wage decrees clearly raised wages, the wage decrees were followed by substantial losses of jobs for women workers, ranging from six percent in the laundry industry, to 14 percent in the brush industry. Results varied in the other two.


Clifford F. Thies is the Eldon R. Lindsay Professor of Economics and Finance at Shenandoah University.