Minimum Wage Policies and Vital Health Outcomes

Income is considered one of the key underlying social determinants of health. However, there has been relatively limited research on the health effects of policies designed to increase income for vulnerable families.

Using unpublished vital statistics data from the National Center for Health Statistics, this study will examine the effect of minimum wage variation over the last three decades on infant mortality, birth weight, and prenatal care. The researchers will also investigate how minimum wage policy influences health outcomes for low-wage workers using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, focusing on body mass index and chronic health conditions.

The effects of minimum wage-related policies on health will become even more pertinent as more states and localities consider increasing minimum wages. California, New York State and Washington D.C. are phasing in $15 minimum wages over the next six years; New Jersey is very likely to follow in 2018, and five other states (Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Oregon and Washington) have enacted minimum wages that will climb to $12 or higher. Establishing a link between wage policy and health outcomes would expand the growing evidence-base on the population effects of increased minimum wages, and may help inform state policymakers and employers who are considering a change in wage policy.