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Can a Federal Minimum Wage Alleviate Poverty and Income Inequality? Ex-post and Simulation Evidence from Germany

Aufsätze referiert extern - Web of Science

Teresa Backhaus, Kai-Uwe Müller

In: Journal of European Social Policy im Ersch. (2023), [Online first: 2022-12-20]


Minimum wages are increasingly discussed as an instrument against (in-work) poverty and income inequality in Europe. Just recently the German government opted for a substantial ad-hoc increase of the minimum-wage level to euro12 per hour mentioning poverty prevention as an explicit goal. We use the introduction of the federal minimum wage in Germany in 2015 to study its redistributive impact on disposable household incomes. Based on the German Socio-Economic Panel we analyse changes in poverty and income inequality investigating different mechanisms of the transmission from individual gross wage-rates to disposable household incomes. We find that the minimum wage is an inadequate tool for income redistribution because it does not target poor households. Individuals affected by the minimum wage are not primarily in households at the bottom of the income distribution but are spread across it. Consequently, welfare dependence decreases only marginally. The withdrawal of transfers or employment effects cannot explain the limited effect on poverty. Complementary simulations show that neither full compliance nor a markedly higher level of euro12 per hour can render the minimum wage more effective in reducing poverty.

Keywords: Minimum wage, inequality, in-work poverty, income distribution, tax-transfer simulation

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