• I380;
  • J380;
  • J880
  • minimum wage;
  • poverty;
  • New Zealand

Real minimum wages increased by nearly 33 percent for adults and 123 percent for teenagers in New Zealand between 1999 and 2008. Where fewer than 2 percent of workers were being paid a minimum wage at the outset of this sample period, more than 8 percent of adult workers and 60 percent of teenage workers were receiving hourly earnings close to the minimum wage by the end of this period. These policy changes provide a unique opportunity to estimate the effects of the minimum wage on poverty. Although minimum wage workers are more likely to live in the poorest households, they are relatively widely dispersed throughout the income distribution. This is particularly true of teenage minimum wage workers. Furthermore, low-income households often do not contain any working members. We estimate that a 10 percent increase in minimum wages, even without a loss in employment or hours of work, would lower the relative poverty rate by less than one-tenth of a percentage point.