June 2014

IZA Policy Paper No. 86: Why Minimum Wage Increases Are a Poor Way to Help the Working Poor

Minimum wage increases are not a very effective mechanism for reducing poverty. They are not related to decreases in poverty rates. They can cost some low-income workers their jobs. And most minimum wage earners who gain from a higher minimum wage do not live in poor (or near-poor) families. A better tool for reducing poverty, and at lower cost, is the earned income tax credit. It is a much more targeted way to provide income to workers in poor families. It raises the wages of only workers in low-income families and rises with the number of dependent children in a family.