Minimum Wages, Monopsony and Towns

Simon Wren-Lewis at mainly macro:

I suspect many labour economists regard monopsony in the labour market as something of a special case. That perception may need updating, argues Marshall Steinbaum here, drawing on recent work by him and coauthors for the US. They find “that most labor markets (as defined by occupation and geography) are very concentrated [few firms], and that this concentration has a robust negative impact on posted wages for job openings.” That is exactly what you would expect from monopsony: the fewer firms there are in a location, the less often vacancies occur, so the less these firms when suppressing wages have to worry that workers will quit.
The article considers a number of policy implications stemming from widespread monopsony that are worth reading. This could include, in the UK, improving rail communications into cities besides London. The one directly relevant to this post is that these results may help explain why minimum wages do not reduce employment. In the absence of minimum wages, relatively poorly performing firms may be able to shift the impact of poor performance from profits to wages. The minimum wage stops that happening.

If monopsony is prevalent in large towns but not big cities, I couldn’t help wondering if this might have something to do with the difference between towns and cities in the Brexit vote I mentioned in my last post. Support for Trump is also strong in the rural parts of the US, which is where Steinbaum et al find monopsony is prevalent. What this monopsony study suggests is that working conditions within firms are likely to be worse in towns than in cities. What impact might that have on voters? One response to worker exploitation in towns is for people to leave, as they do. For those who stay, an overriding concern might be the survival of firms within the town. This in turn could have an important impact on voter attitudes.

A very interesting point about the difference between cities and towns.