By Jarrett Stepman | The Daily Signal
In a classic case of good intentions paving the way to hell, it appears that minimum wage increases might be bad for your health.
A recently released study on the impact of minimum wage increases in Seattle showed a corresponding uptick in the number of health violations by restaurants in the area as the minimum wage went up.
The paper found that just a $0.10 jump in the minimum wage “increased hygiene violation scores by 11.45 percent.”
One of the paper’s authors, Srikant Devaraj, said in an interview with NPR: “We find that a dollar increase in minimum wage resulted in a 6.4 percent increase in overall health violations and 15.3 percent increase in less severe violations as a result of the increases.”
Seattle has been a battleground in the “Fight for $15” minimum wage movement since the city began implementing a $13 minimum wage in 2015 (which has since been increased to $15).
However, this poster child for high minimum wage cities delivered a major blow to the movement earlier this year when the University of Washington released a study showing that the law decreased employment for low-income workers.
The study also found that those who were still employed after the wage hike often had their hours reduced.
The findings of that study were so dramatic that even some on the left who had previously supported minimum wage laws had to concede that they might not be living up to their lofty promises.
Seattle's minimum wage hike (which I thought was a great idea) may actually have cost low-wage workers: https://t.co/iSC9AQb9WC
— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) June 26, 2017
This, in part, is what the authors of the new study on the minimum wage’s health effects point to as a potential cause of the sudden surge in health code violations.
They theorized that to make up for the forced higher wages, restaurant owners have just a few choices to make up for the increased cost.
The first would be to pass the price on to customers. Since this could also hurt business in a competitive market, this may be an unattractive but necessary option.
The second strategy would be to cut labor costs by reducing staff, slashing hours, and duplicating roles for their current employees.
By doing so, restaurants could be generating this higher number of health code violations because they are stretched too thin to handle precautions they would have taken in the past.
According to the authors, most of the violations tend to be of the lower-level “blue” variety. An example would be the presence of rodents around food products and other infractions of that sort.
But the study didn’t find an increase in higher-level “red” violations that would lead to the shutdown of an establishment.
So restaurant owners could be simply taking a chance by letting smaller infractions go while still keeping their business open, the authors of the study reasoned.
Regardless of whether or not the reduced cleanliness will kill you, it certainly isn’t appetizing to think that your favorite local restaurant may be cutting corners on cleanliness because of government policies.
This latest example of the negative effects of minimum wage again shows how policies to enforce social justice in the name of empathy can end up harming both intended beneficiaries and society as a whole.