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A Short Comment on Alan Krueger

March 18, 2019

The news about Alan Krueger is a profound tragedy. We can never know or understand the burdens that some people bear, however successful they might be. This one is particularly striking to me in large part because we are so close in age and I have followed his remarkable career.

 

I have already started seeing discussions in the media, especially social media, highlighting a major study from the early 1990's in which Krueger, at Princeton, and David Card, at UC Berkeley, demonstrated that the NJ minimum wage increase did not effect an unemployment increase, as compared with PA, which did not have the increase. This was, at the time, contrary to conventional economic modeling. It is easy--and problematic--to overstate this admittedly important finding.

 

Krueger published this op ed in 2015, and it offers his nuanced view on the minimum wage issue. At the time, he counseled a five-year phase in of a $12 national minimum wage, whereas he cautioned that a $15 national minimum wage, which some even then had advocated, would risk greater burdens than benefits. He also noted that particular localities that could absorb the $15 per hour minimum would remain free to do so.

 

The Democratic party is in the midst of a battle for its soul, and the minimum wage issue looms large. Balance and moderation are not exciting positions, but they are often the most thoughtful and reflective. Data and facts matter, and that was part of the central legacy that Krueger left those of us who only knew him by reputation and who admired him for his work. For those who knew him personally, and especially for his family, may his memory forever be a blessing.

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