Dollar on a scale

The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 per hour for over a decade–not enough to keep a family of two above the federal poverty line. In an effort to keep people out of poverty, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have set their own minimum wage, as have numerous cities and counties. Here in California, we are moving toward a $15 per hour minimum wage for all workers by 2023; Los Angeles will reach a $15 per hour minimum wage for all workers by July 2021. Details about the Los Angeles and California minimum wages can be found in this post.

Today, the Washington Post reported on powerful new research published in the Journal of Epidemology & Community Health, which found that a $1 increase in the minimum wages was linked to a 3.4–5.9% decrease in the suicide rate among adults with a high school education or less. The largest effects were found when unemployment rates were high.

In the United States, suicide accounts for approximately 19% of deaths in adults ages 18 to 24 and 11% of deaths in adults ages 25 to 44. Financial stressors are often a factor. For example, the report cited research that “an estimated 1.7% of unemployed US adults attempted suicide in 2017, compared with 0.4% of those working full-time and 0.7% for those working part-time.”

The report estimates that, between 2009 and 2015, 13,800 suicides could have been prevented among those ages 18–64 years with a high school education or less given an increase in the minimum wage equivalent to $1 above prevailing levels; a $2 increase could have prevented 25,900 suicides.

I have written many times about the importance of raising the minimum wage and creating a social safety net for those in need (for example, here, here, and here). Indeed, my master’s thesis was about single mothers, poverty, and the minimum wage. This new research shows just how important it is that we ensure that workers can make a living wage to support themselves and their families.

Study Finds $1 Increase In Minimum Wage Connected To Drop In Suicides was last modified: January 9th, 2020 by Ramit Mizrahi
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