UW News

March 30, 2015

UW faculty team for five-year study of Seattle’s minimum wage increase

UW News

What will be the effects on workers, businesses, consumers and families of the city of Seattle’s ordinance increasing the minimum hourly wage to $15 by the year 2022?

Faculty from the University of Washington’s schools of public affairs, public health and social work are teaming up for The Seattle Minimum Wage Study, a five-year research project to learn that and more.

An ordinance passed by the Seattle City Council in June 2014 mandates a citywide minimum wage increase to $11 an hour on April 1 that will grow to $15 an hour by the year 2022. The council also resolved to evaluate the impact of that ordinance and is contracting with UW researchers and others for that work.

Jacob Vigdor, professor in the Evans School of Public Affairs, will be principal investigator on the project along with Mark Long, also of the Evans School, and Jennifer Romich of the School of Social Work.

UW co-investigators are Scott Allard, Heather Hill and Robert Plotnick of the Evans School and Jennifer Otten of the School of Public Health. Other co-investigators are Scott Bailey and Anneliese Vance-Sherman of the Washington Employment Security Department.

“Our goal is to make this a data-driven conversation about what is the good that is being done, what is the harm that is being done, and are we happy with that tradeoff,” Vigdor told Seattle NPR affiliate KUOW in a recent interview.

The study will be a multifaceted evaluation of the wage ordinance’s effects on workers, employers and the local economy. Its several components will include an employer survey and in-depth study of the effect on families as well as on regional pricing and administrative and census data.

The researchers listed fundamental questions about the higher minimum wage to be investigated in the research:

  • What is its impact on workers, their families, employers and the community?
  • Does it impact employment and earnings among low-wage workers?
  • Does it affect overall employment, business longevity or the mix of firms that do business in Seattle?
  • How does it affect consumer prices?
  • Does it improve quality of life measures, including health, nutrition and daily family life?
  • Does it affect public assistance program eligibility and benefits received?
  • Do nonprofit service organizations respond to higher wages by cutting back on services to vulnerable families?
  • How do low-income families and employers experience the implementation of the policy and how do they perceive its benefits and costs?
  • How do businesses adapt to higher labor costs?

The project will build on previous research by Plotnick, Long and Marieka Klawitter, also of the Evans School, on who would be affected by the wage increase. That report was released in March 2014, prior to the passage of the ordinance.

The researchers will provide the city of Seattle regular updates on their study as the wage increases are implemented.


For general inquiries about the Seattle Minimum Wage Study, write mwage@uw.edu. Principal investigator Vigdor is at 206-616-4436 or jvigdor@uw.edu; Long at 206-543-3787 or marklong@uw.edu; Romich at romich@uw.edu or 206-616-6121.