Minimum Wage and Restaurant Hygiene Violations

by on July 12, 2017 at 8:00 pm in Economics, Food and Drink | Permalink

This is evidence from Seattle, from a new paper by Subir K. Chakrabarti, Srikant Devaraj, and Pankaj C. Patel.  Here is the abstract:

We assess the effects of rise in minimum wages on hygiene violation scores in food service establishments. Using a difference-in-difference analysis on hygiene rating of food establishments in Seattle [where minimum wage increased annually between 2010 and 2013] as the treated group and from New York City [minimum wage was constant] as the control group, we find an increase in real minimum wage by $0.10 increased total hygiene violation scores by 11.45 percent. Consistent with our theoretical model, an increase in minimum wage in Seattle has no influence in more severe (red) violations, and a significant increase in less severe (blue) violations. Our findings are consistent while using an alternate control group – Bellevue City, King County, located near Seattle.

Of course this makes perfect sense.  Even when minimum wages do not much decrease employment, they are not a free lunch, so to speak.  “There ain’t no such thing as a healthy free lunch” [TANSTAAHFL, the pronunciation differs only slightly] could be the new catchphrase.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.

1 chris July 12, 2017 at 8:11 pm

In the longer term (beyond 3 years), might there be a reverse trend? For example, as more hygienic robots and processes fill the gaps left by the short run decrease in human labor.

2 Eric July 13, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Having worked with food handling machinery, more robots and automation will not increase hygiene. The number of odd places where food can get collect and rot goes up with more automation and less human hands. Compare a chef’s knife with a food processor and extrapolate. A human will still be cleaning the robot with dirty human hands and sneezing noses. Ease of cleaning everything that has contact with food is usually a low priority in design when compared with other priorities such as consistency of product and cost to produce and operate. I’m not saying someone couldn’t make this an emphasis, but design trade-offs occur.

3 Bill July 12, 2017 at 8:11 pm

This is not a valid study.

They should have used my kitchen or restaurants in Mexico City as a control group.

Did you ever think there might be different levels of enforcement activities between cities?

4 Bill July 12, 2017 at 8:13 pm

How about taking Seattle and a Seattle suburb where, say, a county regulates both the city and the suburb.

5 Tyler July 12, 2017 at 8:18 pm

> Our findings are consistent while using an alternate control group – Bellevue City, King County, located near Seattle.

6 Bill July 12, 2017 at 10:01 pm

Close, but not same regulatory authority across both groups. How about a before and after test where regulatory authority is the same.

7 Ray Lopez July 12, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Yes, in the long run, the curve could shift out due to more professional people taking over, sterilizing machines taking the place of crude hand washing, and the like. Proves nothing, or whatever you want it to prove.

8 Thomas July 12, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Cost disease. There aren’t innovations in wiping down tables; less hands, less wiping.

9 Ann July 13, 2017 at 6:22 pm

It’s a difference in difference approach, which means they’re comparing changes in violation rates from before to after the minimum wage increase to changes in violation rates for the control group over the same time period. Different enforcement levels in the control group are not a problem, unless there’s reason to believe that the enforcement level in the control group happened to change at the same time that the minimum wage increased in Seattle.

10 Sam the Sham July 12, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Tahn staw-awful, instead of tahn stah ful?

11 Thiago Ribeiro July 12, 2017 at 8:44 pm

“Subir K. Chakrabarti, Srikant Devaraj, and Pankaj C. Patel.”

12 Really July 12, 2017 at 11:21 pm

Is that random or racist?

13 Thiago Ribeiro July 13, 2017 at 4:58 am

I don’t know. Are those three names from the same paper random?

14 a counterclockwise witness July 12, 2017 at 11:34 pm

Waggles have always, since the poet Gael Marquez wrote time’s in memoriam, caused incidence. Notably in ripples but lets smooth that curve and discuss the ten cent word on everyone’s mind. Hygiene. Note it is the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Hygiene is the hyena in the Snows of Mount Kilamajaro. Hygiene is the plague in Camus’ the plague. I say let bygones be Watson and Crick’s to explore. Spoiler alert: “never believe any of that about a scythe and a skull, he told her. It can be two bicycle policeman as easily, or be a bird. Or it can have a wide snout like a hyena.

The improper disposal of feminine hygiene products is one of the greatest health risks to any female who uses a public restroom. Does any man know of this risk? For it is the basis of the dialogue in Snows of Kilmajaro. What of it, I say?

15 Mark Thorson July 13, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Is there any way to filter out Mark V. Chaney?

16 rayward July 12, 2017 at 8:49 pm

The average (mean) high temperature in Seattle on July 4th increased from 65 degrees in 2010 to 68 degrees in 2013, which no doubt caused the increase in hygiene violations. Why else would violations increase? Immigrants? Sun spots? Earth quakes? Population? Minimum wage?

17 Bill July 12, 2017 at 10:02 pm

It was caused by Obamacare.

18 JWatts July 13, 2017 at 3:49 pm

“which no doubt caused the increase in hygiene violations. Why else would violations increase?”

Well the most obvious answer that occurs to me is that restaurants have cut hours back after the minimum wage increase. So there’s less personnel and everyone is under pressure to get the food out. So, the staff stops washing their hands as much, because they don’t have the time.

19 Harun July 13, 2017 at 6:10 pm

Or wiping down prep tables. Stuff like that.

20 Pshrnk July 12, 2017 at 8:54 pm

This isn’t a study. Its the biggest WITCH HUNT in history.

21 Thomas July 12, 2017 at 9:13 pm

“Supply and demand doesn’t apply where my political preferences find it inconvenient.”

22 Purple Mutt July 13, 2017 at 1:13 am

“My policy beliefs are derived from cherry-picked models and have no contact with reality.”

23 zzz July 12, 2017 at 9:26 pm

*Second biggest witch hunt in history.

24 Really July 12, 2017 at 11:19 pm

Wow, the biggest in history.

So you’d be totally insane no?

25 Ryan July 13, 2017 at 9:18 am

I read the title and instantly knew that the study was politically motivated and what its conclusion would be. The left is seriously grasping at straws here.

26 Matt July 13, 2017 at 10:27 am

It appears you read the title and stopped there. The paper’s conclusion doesn’t promote any left-wing agenda I’m aware of.

27 mulp July 12, 2017 at 8:56 pm

“Consistent with our theoretical model, an increase in minimum wage in Seattle has no influence in more severe (red) violations, and a significant increase in less severe (blue) violations.”

So, if studying pro-sports, higher salaries will correlate with higher technical fouls, but no changes in personal fouls?

In CEO performance, higher compensation will correlate with higher guilty pleas for civil fraud, but no change in the rate of criminal fraud convictions?

Paying more leads to worse performance?

Shouldn’t conservatives be working extremely hard to force $15 an hour wages in Africa factories, Vietnam factories, etc, to make the quality of products exported from those nations extremely low quality, forcing clothing sellers like Gucci and the Trump’s to resort to US clothing factories to get quality products.

Trump would find his ties imported from Asia are either 6 inches long, or 6 feet long when tied. He would be forced to hire America garment union workers to make his ties for $12 an hour at high quality.

28 Thomas July 12, 2017 at 9:16 pm

Paying more leads to less manhours which leads to busier employees which leads to the least pressing needs being neglected. This isn’t rocket science, this is somewhere around “anyone who has ever done employee scheduling”. Apparently you aren’t quite on the level of a McDonald’s supervisor.

29 Bill July 12, 2017 at 10:23 pm

OK, so the most hygienic place is India because they pay their workers less. So, I should not go to a high end restaurant in NYC which pays its professional staff well and should rather eat out at a food truck which hires illegals selling tacos.

The other part of the problem here is that all restaurants in the Seattle area have their wages go up, some reduce worker hours, others keep the hours the same. Did they examine changes in hours and compare before and after for those which changed hours? No.

30 Thomas July 12, 2017 at 11:44 pm

First statement: “I don’t know what ceteris paribus means.”

“The other part of the problem here is that all restaurants in the Seattle area have their wages go up, some reduce worker hours, others keep the hours the same. Did they examine changes in hours and compare before and after for those which changed hours? No.”

I didn’t read the study, but assuming what you say is true, thank you for this actual objection to it.

31 carlospln July 12, 2017 at 10:43 pm

Since you are doubtless aware that correlation does not equal causation, allow me to rub it in

What kind of dumb idiot would post something this stupid?

Red meat for the rubes, eh, TC?

32 Bill July 12, 2017 at 10:54 pm

Tummy Alert!!

Marginal Revolution

Urgently urges all states and localities

Which have increased minimum wages

To increase regulatory surveillance of restaurants.

We need to increase regulatory oversight, a spokesman said.

OK, Ok, Fake News

33 Really July 12, 2017 at 11:21 pm

Man a ton of you demand curve deniers really need to believe lefty dogma don’t you?

34 Thomas July 12, 2017 at 11:45 pm

Don’t you know? Minimum wage increases pay for themselves. I mean, not $100/hr, or even $20/hr, or even anything which is easily measurable, like a non-phased increase, but yeah, we totally believe that S&D doesn’t apply in the market for labor.

35 Thanatos Savehn July 12, 2017 at 11:58 pm

This doesn’t make any kind of sense unless you believe that you can take a bunch of integers and produce a continuous variable model from them. Have you not been paying ANY attention to the replication crisis? Do you really believe that if you and I both circle a “4” on one of those hospital “which face shows your pain level” queries that not only do we have the same subjective experience of whatever it is we’re experiencing but that if you circle a “5” after a medication and I circle a “6” that the average American will therefor be “5.50000000” if he/she takes the med following diagnosis with the disease?

I know that your university demands that you deny God, but math? Really? 11.45%??? O-M-G. It’s come to this then.

36 Abelard Lindsey July 12, 2017 at 11:58 pm

Why would increases in minimum wage decrease cleanliness in restaurants? Any ideas?

37 Brandon Berg July 13, 2017 at 3:31 am

The first explanation that occurs to me is that workers are pushed to get more done, and cut corners to make it happen.

38 Jack July 13, 2017 at 4:56 am

My guess would be that an increase in minimum wage leads to a few different things. Many restaurants are going to lay off an employee or two to make ends meet. You’re expected to work a little harder to compensate. But, if you’re already working at 100% that means something is gonna get cut out.

I would be interested to see if there is a difference between violations in restaurants that laid off workers and ones that didn’t.

39 Bill July 13, 2017 at 7:36 am

Look, don’t ever give economists an R package for them to do statistical analysis.

The obvious answer is that if employers raise the minimum wage they will cut back on toilet paper.

40 Paul Barnsley July 13, 2017 at 1:37 am

Tyler,

With very occasional exceptions, I don’t know of anywhere else on the internet with as big a gap between post and comment quality.

It feels like a wasted opportunity – surely there are steps you could take to establish a virtuous circle of improved comment quality leading to increased audience engagement. Other sites seem to manage it…

41 MOFO July 13, 2017 at 9:37 am

Wasent always this bad. Its a byproduct of popularity i suppose.

42 JWatts July 13, 2017 at 3:53 pm

True, but requiring actual passwords for logging in would drastically cut down on some of the worst forms of trolling.

43 msgkings July 13, 2017 at 3:55 pm

+1, but really only sock puppeting would be reduced. Wouldn’t stop prior or Thiago or other trolls

44 JWatts July 13, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Agreed.

45 (Lady) Michele Ducharme July 13, 2017 at 3:37 am

Yeah, you’re a douche.

46 Gary Leff July 13, 2017 at 7:27 am

Within a certain range lower restaurant cleanliness scores loosely correlate with better food. So this may be the first paper that could get me behind higher minimum wages.

47 Steve July 13, 2017 at 7:28 am

Ten cents? Something tells me if I looked closely at the study I’d find they can’t really ferret out the impact of a ten cent change.

48 Steve July 13, 2017 at 10:02 am

This effect size doesn’t seem remotely plausible.

49 Thomas Firey July 13, 2017 at 11:43 am

Does this finding contradict one of the standard arguments *for* minimum wage increases?

This argument asserts that the (purported) monopsony power of min-wage employers results in better-quality would-be workers opting for leisure instead of working at lower min wages because these people think the pay is not worth their effort. However, if health violations increase following min wage hikes, then that suggests the new laborers are lower-quality laborers. This suggests that the labor market does not suffer market-power problems after all–hence the distortion of higher min wages yielding lower-quality workers.

(All of this assumes the controls of NYC, King Co., and Bellevue are appropriate, including reflecting roughly equal labor demand. King Co., at least, would seem to be a good control.)

Is this reasoning right, or am I missing something?

50 JWatts July 13, 2017 at 3:54 pm

“…then that suggests the new laborers are lower-quality laborers.”

I think it’s more likely that it’s the same laborers, but their hours have been cut. So, the store is understaffed and everyone cuts corners.

51 Thomas Firey July 13, 2017 at 5:39 pm

Good point.

52 JonFraz July 13, 2017 at 2:20 pm

rE: , we find an increase in real minimum wage by $0.10 increased total hygiene violation scores by 11.45 percent. Of course this makes perfect sense.

It makes no sense. People paid more money are more careless with hygiene? What the deuce would be the causative factor? Might as well posit “I wore my yellow shirt today, therefore it will rain”.

53 JWatts July 13, 2017 at 3:57 pm

“What the deuce would be the causative factor?”

Have you never worked at a minimum wage job before? The wages went up, so management cut the hours back.

54 Harun July 13, 2017 at 6:35 pm

If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.

If you’re now so expensive you don’t have time to lean, you’ll never clean.

55 Bonnie July 18, 2017 at 8:08 am

Perhaps people have more money and are eating out more, making restaurant employees busier.

Most commenters seem to assume hygiene violations are a result of employees being very busy–what I’m saying is, employees staying busy can also be a sign of a thriving business.

56 Thomas July 18, 2017 at 9:16 am

But then we’d expect to see a similar increase in the King County control, but we don’t. We also know from the UW paper that employment in that part of the wage scale to be increasing (because restaurants are “thriving”), but again we don’t see that.

The best explanation, so far, continues to be a decrease in the use of labor.

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