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The effects of prevailing wage laws: A comparison of individual workers’ wages earned on and off prevailing wage construction projects


I evaluate the effects of prevailing wage laws using a unique data set that shows the wages paid to workers on prevailing wage projects and the wages paid to the same workers during the same time period for work on projects not covered by prevailing wage regulations. The wage comparison shows that workers are generally paid more for work on prevailing wage projects than they are for work on nonprevailing wage projects. Thus, prevailing wage laws likely do increase the cost of public construction. In addition, to the extent that the quality of construction is improved, prevailing wage laws appear to be an inefficient mechanism by which to achieve additional quality, as the regulations often result in workers being paid more than they earn in the private market.

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This research was done originally for the Program Review and Investigations Committee of the Kentucky State Legislature. I thank the staff of the Program Review and Investigations Committee and the Legisla-tive Research Commission for assistance with data collection and Mark Berger for helpful comments. Due to confidentiality requirements, the data cannot be made available.

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Clark, M. The effects of prevailing wage laws: A comparison of individual workers’ wages earned on and off prevailing wage construction projects. J Labor Res 26, 725–737 (2005).

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  • Construction Cost
  • Union Wage
  • Fringe Benefit
  • Wage Cost
  • Wage Data