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A new evaluation of impacts of prevailing wage law repeal


A recent academic study claims that repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, the federal prevailing wage law covering construction of public works, would cost more in lost taxes than could be recovered in lower construction expenditures and would also result in an increased number of construction injuries and deaths. Those claims are not supported by the facts. Indeed, the opposite is true. The facts support savings to the federal government from repeal of Davis-Bacon in excess of $1.5 billion annually, and, if anything, a lower rather than a higher frequency of construction injuries. Furthermore, states still having prevailing wage laws would also realize significant savings from repeal. Aggregate savings from eliminating all prevailing wage laws could exceed $4 billion a year.

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The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David Denholm, President, Public Service Research Council, and Derrick Max, Staff Economist, U.S. House of Representatives, in finding sources of data and helping structure this paper, and of Dr. Herbert R. Northrup, Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania, for his guidance and advice.

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Thieblot, A.J. A new evaluation of impacts of prevailing wage law repeal. Journal of Labor Research 17, 297–322 (1996).

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  • Wage Rate
  • Injury Rate
  • Construction Worker
  • Repeal State
  • Nonunion Worker