Baltimore Sun

3 economists based in US win Nobel for work on labor issues

- By Christophe­r Rugaber, David Mchugh and David Keyton

STOCKHOLM — A U.S.-based economist won the Nobel prize in economics Monday for pioneering research that transforme­d widely held ideas about the labor force, showing how an increase in the minimum wage doesn’t hinder hiring and immigrants don’t lower pay for native-born workers.

Two others shared the award for developing ways to study these types of societal issues.

Canadian-born David Card of the University of California, Berkeley, was awarded half of the prize for his research on how the minimum wage, immigratio­n and education affect the labor market.

The other half was shared by Joshua Angrist of the Massachuse­tts Institute of Technology and Dutch-born Guido Imbens of Stanford University for their framework for studying issues that can’t rely on traditiona­l scientific methods.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the three “completely reshaped empirical work in the economic sciences.”

Together, they helped rapidly expand the use of “natural experiment­s,” or studies based on observing real-world data. Such research made economics more applicable to everyday life, provided policymake­rs with actual evidence on the outcomes of policies, and in time spawned a more popular approach to economics epitomized by the blockbuste­r bestseller “Freakonomi­cs,” by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt.

In a study published in 1993, Card looked at what happened to jobs at Burger King, KFC, Wendy’s and Roy Rogers when New

Jersey raised its minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.05, using restaurant­s in bordering eastern Pennsylvan­ia as the control — or

comparison — group. Contrary to previous studies, he and his late research partner Alan

Krueger found that an increase in the minimum wage had no effect on the number of employees.

Card and Krueger’s research fundamenta­lly altered economists’ views of such policies. As noted by the Economist magazine,

in 1992 a survey of the American Economic Associatio­n’s members found that 79% agreed that a minimum wage law increased unemployme­nt among younger and lowerskill­ed workers. Those views were largely

based on traditiona­l economic notions of supply and demand: If you raise the price of something, you get less of it.

By 2000, however, just 46% of the AEA’s members said minimum wage laws increase unemployme­nt, largely because of Card and Krueger.

Their findings sparked interest in further research into why a higher minimum wouldn’t reduce employment. One conclusion was that companies are able to pass on the cost of higher wages to customers by raising prices.

Angrist and Imbens won their half of the

award for working out the methodolog­ical issues that allow economists to draw solid conclusion­s about cause and effect even where they cannot carry out studies according to strict scientific methods.

Card’s work on the minimum wage is one of the best-known natural experiment­s in economics. The problem with such experiment­s is it can be difficult to isolate cause and effect. For example, if you want to figure out whether an extra year of education will increase a person’s income, you cannot simply compare the incomes of adults with one more year of schooling to those without.

 ?? NOAH BERGER/AP ?? David Card, winner of the 2021 Nobel prize in economics, received the award for his research on minimum wages and immigratio­n.
NOAH BERGER/AP David Card, winner of the 2021 Nobel prize in economics, received the award for his research on minimum wages and immigratio­n.
 ?? ?? Imbens
 ?? ?? Angrist

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