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Keywords:

  • minimum wage;
  • policy diffusion;
  • policy adoption;
  • and citizen ideology

Faced with long intervals between federal minimum wage increases in recent years, state legislatures are increasingly likely to take action. Motivated by the relative dearth of empirical work on minimum wages in the American states, this article considered various explanations to determine which factors are associated with legislative efforts to pass wage increases. Taking seriously the view that disagreements over the effects of minimum wage increases enhances the influence of political factors, we drew on the policy adoption and diffusion literature to examine how internal determinants (political and economic variables) and regional diffusion pressures relate to both the introduction and adoption of minimum wage legislation in the American states in the years between the last two federal minimum wage increases (1997–2006). Employing negative binomial regression to analyze annual bill introductions, we found that a number of political variables are related to the consideration of minimum wage increases. However, using event history analysis to examine annual adoptions of minimum wage increases, we found few of the same variables matter. We concluded with a discussion of the empirical results within the context of the broader policy literature and cautioned future scholars to consider seriously whether political factors exert distinct influences at different stages of the policy process.