The Determinants of Policy Introduction and Bill Adoption: Examining Minimum Wage Increases in the American States, 1997–2006


  • Eric A. Whitaker,

  • Mitchel N. Herian,

  • Christopher W. Larimer,

  • Michael Lang

  • Previous versions of the paper have been presented at the 2010 State Politics and Policy Conference in Springfield, IL, and the 2007 Midwest Political Science Association Meeting in Chicago, IL.
  • The authors thank Sarah Williams and Joseph Larsen for their assistance with data collection and coding. We are indebted to Senator Jeff Danielson of the Iowa State Senate for his assistance in arranging data collection of legislative bill abstracts. We thank Don Haider-Markel, Andrew Karch, Scott Lamothe, Kevin Smith, Fred Boehmke, and Lilliard Richardson, who provided helpful comments and invaluable insights in fine-tuning this paper. Finally, we thank two anonymous reviewers and the editors of Policy Studies Journal for their helpful comments.


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.