The Case of the Minimum Wage

Competing Policy Models

By Oren M. Levin-Waldman

Subjects: American Labor History
Series: SUNY series in Public Policy
Paperback : 9780791448564, 250 pages, January 2001
Hardcover : 9780791448557, 250 pages, January 2001

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Tables and Figures

1. Introduction

Political Issues

2. Competing Models

Import of Utilitarianism
Economic Models
Political Model

3 The Minimum Wage in Historical Perspective

The Efficiency Argument
Constitutional Issues
Protective Labor Legislation for Women
The Need for a More Encompassing Argument

4. The Evolution of the Wage

The Fair Labor Standards Act
Role of Unions?
The Assault

5. Labor in Decline

Significance of Declining Unionism?
Voting Behavior
Congressional Voting,Implications

6. Return to Labor Market Policy

Previous Approach
Toward Greater Policy Coherence


Places contemporary minimum wage debates in historical context, stressing the importance of political as opposed to economic variables.


This book traces the historical evolution of minimum-wage policy and explains how models are used (and misused) by different interests to achieve their particular aims. Minimum-wage policy was initially legitimated as a broader labor-market policy aimed at achieving greater productivity and labor-market stability. As organized labor has declined as a political force in the last twenty years, the nature of the debate has metamorphized into a narrowly focused and often highly technical discussion concerned with specific effects of given specific increases in the minimum wage, such as either relieving poverty or the so-called adverse effects on youth unemployment. This change has coincided with the greatest stagnation of the minimum wage.

Oren M. Levin-Waldman is the author of Reconceiving Liberalism: Dilemmas of Contemporary Liberal Public Policy and Plant Closure, Regulation, and Liberalism: The Limits to Liberal Public Philosophy.


"The book effectively blends economics, political science, legal studies, history, and policy studies. I found it absorbing." — Deborah M. Figart, coauthor of Contesting the Market: Pay Equity and the Politics of Economic Restructuring

"The balancing of economic perspectives with political perspectives is excellent." — J. Edward Kellough, University of Georgia