Oklahoma $15 Wage Ballot Measure Could Kill Over 12,000 Jobs

After a delay in the state courts, an Oklahoma ballot proposal for a statewide $15 minimum wage has received a green light to move forward. The measure requires roughly 92,000 signatures to qualify for November’s ballot. If it passes this mark, it will be up for voters to decide.

If enacted, the measure would double the state’s current minimum wage from $7.25 per hour up to $15 per hour. After hitting the $15 per hour mark by 2029, the rate would increase annually based on inflation. The law would not affect the state’s tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour for servers and bartenders.

A recent study by Miami and Trinity University economists finds the proposed ballot measure would be a shock to Oklahoma. They estimate the measure would kill up to 12,313 jobs. Those in hospitality-related industries, such as food and beverage establishments, are most likely to be affected.

This follows an extensive body of research documenting the real-life consequences of steep minimum wage hikes:

  • An overwhelming majority of the literature on minimum wage hikes finds they cause job losses, especially among younger and entry-level employees. (National Bureau of Economic Research)
  • Every $1 increase in the minimum wage decreases hours worked by 21%. (Harvard Business Review)
  • These scheduled hours reductions hurt employees who keep their jobs despite minimum wage hikes, and cause total payrolls to shrink. (University of Washington)
  • Hours reductions and overall margin tightening due to rising costs means employees lose access to certain benefits, such as employer-sponsored health insurance. (University of Chicago)
  • Minimum wage hikes also contribute to inflation, with strongest negative impacts on rural areas, and families experiencing poverty. (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Stanford University)

In a press conference earlier this month, Governor Kevin Stitt referenced these consequences playing out elsewhere around the country. In states like California, where the minimum wage reached $15 per hour in 2022 and has increased every year since, businesses, employees, and residents are feeling the pinch. The Golden State has seen employment declines in affected industries, business closures, and rising consumer prices.

Before starting Oklahoma on a similar path, voters should beware the consequences playing out across the country.