A Washington D.C. research hub that’s funded some widely cited studies casting doubt on the effectiveness of minimum-wage hikes is operated by a public relations firm that represents high-powered corporations and industries that oppose such increases, the New York Times revealed Monday.

The Times’ story dovetails with our Monday fact check that found a 10-year-old conclusion about minimum-wage workers doesn’t translate to today’s economic climate. The basis for the claim we checked – that two thirds of minimum-wage workers receive raises in their first year on the job – came from one of many such studies bankrolled by the Employment Policies Institute. The statistic was mentioned in recent op-eds by San Diego tech entrepreneur Michael Robertson and Washington Post columnist George F. Will.

We gave Robertson’s claim an Unfounded rating, in part because the only research on the issue was funded by EPI, a group that has opposed minimum-wage increases.

The researchers behind that study maintain their analysis wasn’t colored by EPI’s slant on the issue. But without any other studies to compare it to, that’s virtually impossible to verify.

Monday’s Times story will likely inspire more questions about this and other EPI-funded studies, which are often used to buttress arguments against minimum-wage hikes.

EPI is led by advertising exec Richard B. Berman, whose PR firm counts major corporations among its top clients and has run websites such as minimumwage.com, which includes a list of several apparent myths about minimum-wage hikes and points visitors to EPI research to support its points, according to the Times.

The Times found Berman’s D.C. office also serves as the headquarters for both the firm and EPI, which has no employees, and that Berman’s ad firm “bills” the nonprofit EPI for services his PR shop provide to it. Major donors to what could be seen as the ad agency’s nonprofit arm include a foundation that has long supported conservative causes.

While the Times story focused on EPI, which opposes minimum-wage hikes, it pointed out that there’s no shortage of left-leaning groups that support minimum wage increases and similarly tout their research as neutral:

The left has its own prominent groups, like the Center for American Progress and the Economic Policy Institute, whose donors include nearly 20 labor unions, and whose reports, with their own aura of objectivity, consistently conclude that raising the minimum wage makes good economic sense. But none has played such a prominent and multifaceted role in recent months as the conservative Employment Policies Institute.

The story also pulled San Diego State economics professor Joseph J. Sabia into the debate.

Sabia has received more than $200,000 in research grants from the group. One of his seven studies for EPI concluded New York’s 2004 minimum-wage hike led to a significant decline in employment for 16-to-29-year-olds without high school diplomas and projected more than 16,000 lost jobs.

That study got particular attention in the Times’ report because University of Delaware economist Saul D. Hoffman reviewed the same data and found it lacking.

More on that from the Times:

Mr. Hoffman concluded that the narrow cut of data Mr. Sabia picked was perhaps unintentionally skewed, and once corrected, it would have showed that the 2004 increase in New York State’s minimum wage had no negative impact on employment — the opposite of the conclusion the institute had proclaimed in its news releases.

Sabia said he stands by his research.

“In any research grant I have ever received — whether from Employment Policies Institute, the National Institutes of Health or any of the academic institutions at which I have worked — I have always retained the right to publish my scientific work and maintained the academic freedom to pursue the truth wherever the data led,” Sabia wrote in an email to Voice of San Diego.

    This article relates to: Economy, Fact Check, Government, Minimum Wage, News, Share
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    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

    8 comments
    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga memberauthor

    @Jim Jones  I can tell you've never written for a newspaper or any media because you believe reporters make all the decisions about what they write. 

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    The minimum wage increase recently passed in the state is prudent.  I would suspect much of the increased income will go towards basics such as utility costs and food both of which have increased.

    Whether it leads to a noticeable decrease in Jobs is yet to be seen.

    To suggest it will have no effect is foolish.

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga memberauthor

    @Jim Jones  What's your source on "very few people" working for minimum wage? Show your work.  

    amy roth
    amy roth subscribermember

    You have to remember that all stories in the NYTimes are written with a bias toward the paper's editorial agenda, which is extremely "progressive." Any time you happen to know something about an issue and read about it in the Times, unless you happen to share their agenda, it makes your hair stand on end! 

    John Kroll
    John Kroll subscriber

    @amy roth What do you know about this issue that calls the conclusion into question?

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    This is one of the reasons that Darrell Huff's book, How to Lie With Statistics, is a classic that resonates today, even though published in 1954. It should be required reading for all journalists. For those of us who may not have time to become experts on statistics, it's important that we consider the source (and the sponsors of the source) and carefully consider conflicting views. Politics is not the only arena of these shenanigans. Medical research is another area ripe with manipulative "research." "Who funded the research?" is always an appropriate question, though it is not always easy to discover.

    Bill Sheffler
    Bill Sheffler subscribermember

    @Chris Brewster  There we have it, a leftie describing one of the reasons for the decline of their establishment media. 


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