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Study finds that large minimum wage hikes boost the property crime rate

The “Fight for $15” movement, a push by Big Labor to raise the federal wage floor to $15 an hour, has had successes in recent months. In Nevada, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has embraced the concept, but is pushing a more modest proposal to gradually raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour, almost a 50 percent boost from the current $8.25 mandate for workers without health insurance.

There are obvious problems with having bureaucratic central planners and politicians arbitrarily imposing such edicts on the marketplace, not the least of which is that forcing higher wages is the equivalent of outlawing certain jobs. Even proponents of “Fight for $15” tacitly concede this point. Otherwise, why not “Fight for $25” or “Fight for $50”? Because such decrees would leave millions of low- and moderately skilled workers on the permanent unemployment line.

“Fight for $15” achieves the same result on a smaller scale.

But aside from the job losses and reduced hours, a study released last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes large hikes in the minimum wage also trigger increases in property crimes. Why? They destroy employment opportunities for many teenagers and young adults looking to enter the work force, making petty crime an attractive alternative.

The study — which examined 20 years of crime statistics and youth surveys — attempted to confirm the assertion put forth by the Obama administration that higher minimum wages would decrease crime. It found precisely the opposite.

“We find robust evidence that minimum wage hikes increase property crime arrests among teenagers and young adults ages 16-to-24, a population for whom minimum wages are likely to bind,” the paper concluded. The higher crime rate, the authors calculate, would result in an estimated $2.4 billion a year in property crime losses.

The Washington Free Beacon noted that one researcher revealed they found evidence that “some affected younger workers turn to property crime, either due to excessive idleness or to replace their lost income. Higher minimum wages may, therefore, make some neighborhoods less safe.”

Democrats and their progressive allies insist they can impose top-down directives on job creators without adverse ramifications. But the best way to ensure opportunity reaches the greatest number of Americans is to create a regulatory and tax climate that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. Not every job is intended to pay a “living wage” or serve as a lifelong career, nor would all unskilled workers benefit if that were the case.

Gov. Sisolak and Democratic lawmakers will likely impose a $12 wage floor in Nevada. With the mounting evidence that this will do more harm than good, it becomes difficult to describe the negative consequences as “unintended.”

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