Employment Regulation and Youth Employment: A Critical Perspective
15 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 1, 2015
In their contributions to this panel, Professor Heriot and Professor Epstein advance a decidedly anti-regulatory thesis. They argue that U.S. employment laws harm American workers by significantly impairing the efficiency of U.S. labor markets. According to their account, firms would react to the repeal of existing labor regulations by hiring more workers, and, especially, by employing more young people. In this brief essay, I offer a critical perspective on their hypothesis. First, the neoclassical economic theory on which they rely rests on several empirical assumptions that are at odds with the reality of contemporary labor markets. Indeed, no economic theory can provide a compelling a priori reason to repeal any of these regulatory measures. Second, concerns other than economic efficiency quite properly influence public policy. Plausible non-efficiency justifications support many current U.S. labor regulations and may trump the efficiency goals that Professors Heriot and Epstein wish to promote. Finally, the available empirical evidence casts considerable doubt on the argument that labor regulations in the United States dramatically reduce employment opportunities for young people, though most studies suggest that minimum wage laws modestly diminish youth employment.
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