Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit

44 Pages Posted: 7 May 2019

See all articles by Dara Lee Luca

Dara Lee Luca

Mathematica Policy Research

Michael Luca

Harvard Business School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2019


We study the impact of the minimum wage on firm exit in the restaurant industry, exploiting recent changes in the minimum wage at the city level. We find that the impact of the minimum wage depends on whether a restaurant was already close to the margin of exit. Restaurants with lower ratings are closer to the margin of exit on average, and are disproportionately driven out of business by increases to the minimum wage. Our point estimates suggest that a one dollar increase in the minimum wage leads to a 10 percent increase in the likelihood of exit for a 3.5-star restaurant (which is the median rating on Yelp), but has no discernible impact for a 5-star restaurant (on a 1 to 5 star scale). We expand the analysis to look at prices using data from delivery orders, and find that lower rated restaurants also increase prices in response to minimum wage increases. Our analysis also highlights how digital data can be used to shed new light on labor policy and the economy.

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Suggested Citation

Luca, Dara Lee and Luca, Michael, Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit (May 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25806. Available at SSRN:

Dara Lee Luca (Contact Author)

Mathematica Policy Research ( email )

P.O. Box 2393
Princeton, NJ 08543-2393
United States

Michael Luca

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States


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