In an era of increasing social and economic inequality, why are popular labor laws such as increasing the minimum wage slowly realized in the United States, if at all? This situation is puzzling in a purported democracy where one would expect that the extensive political rights of a broad electorate should translate to pro-labor policy. Central to this dissertation are the highly popular minimum wage laws that were enacted in an increasing number of states between 1997 and 2006 after decades of state governments passively adhering to the often stagnant federal level. Is the fact that state governments are now likely to increase their minimum wages above the national standard a sign that these sub-national bodies are more likely to enact policy that reduces social and economic inequality? This research uses the case of the minimum wage to examine the "progressive federalism" thesis to understand the democratic institutions—such as the structure and culture of the legislature and ballot initiatives—that differentiate states and their potential for enacting such popular anti-inequality legislation. In addition, this project will examine social, political and economic factors that may also have been instrumental in both the likelihood and extent to which states increased the minimum wage during the 1997–2006 period. Finally, this study will make use of broad differences among the states to evaluate the effectiveness of minimum wage laws in reducing income inequality among workers or whether such laws may have had negative impacts on employment.
|Advisor:||McManus, Patricia A.|
|Commitee:||Alderson, Arthur S., Bartley, Tim, Hung, Ho-fung|
|School Location:||United States -- Indiana|
|Source:||DAI-A 73/05, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Minimum wage, Political economy, Progressive federalism, State laws|
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