Their analysis relies on data from Yelp, a restaurant-review app favoured by millennials.
The Lucas found that a restaurant has, on average, a one-in-250 chance of closing in any given month.
Whether or not the odds change when the minimum wage rises seems to depend on the quality of the eatery—or at least, on its Yelp rating.
Restaurants with a coveted five-star score are barely affected; but less impressive joints are suddenly more likely to close.
Restaurants with a middling rating are about 14% more likely to shut down when the minimum wage goes up by a dollar. (The authors also show that rating is distinct from price—in other words, a glorious but cheap takeaway has less to worry about than sellers of pricey but tasteless fare).
The result can be spun multiple ways.
If those scholars who say that overall restaurant employment is unaffected by higher minimum wages are right, the implication of the new paper is that pay floors somehow force up the quality of restaurants.
So long as one minimum-wage worker is much like another, a laid-off waiter will be able to find a new job somewhere serving better grub.
If those scholars are wrong, however, then the new paper supports what sceptics have said all along: that higher minimum wages, by threatening the viability of some firms, dent employment opportunities for the low-skilled.
That should be food for thought.