‘Effects appear greatest during periods of high unemployment’
A US$1 increase in the minimum wage results in lower rates of suicides among workers in the United States with high school education or less, according to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The effect ranged from a 3.4 per cent decrease to a 5.9 per cent decrease in the suicide rate among adults aged 18 to 64 years old with a high school education or less, found the “Effects of increased minimum wages by unemployment rate on suicide in the USA” by John Kaufman, Leslie Salas-Hernández, Kelli Komro and Melvin Livingston. The research is based on difference-in-differences models using monthly data from 1990 to 2015.
“Minimum wage increases appear to reduce the suicide rate among those with a high school education or less, and may reduce disparities between socioeconomic groups,” say the researchers. “Effects appear greatest during periods of high unemployment.”
A US$1 increase in the state-level minimum wage appeared to decrease the suicide rate by 5.9 per cent when considering the national secular trends and static state-specific confounding. It also resulted in a 3.5 decline in incidences of taking one’s own life when accounting for state-specific time-varying confounding.
The research found that the increase in salary has no effect among adults with a college degree or more, “suggesting that minimum wage increases may reduce disparities in mental health and mortality between socioeconomic groups.”
Suicide is often associated with financial stressors such as job loss, debt or financial hardship, but less is known about how economic interventions such as minimum wage policies could ameliorate these risk factors, say the researchers.
In 2017, there were more than 47,100 preventable suicide deaths in the U.S, say the researchers. Suicide accounted for 19 per cent of deaths among adults ages 18 to 24, 11 per cent among adults ages 25 to44 years, and eight per cent of total years of life lost before age 65 years.
Suicide rates have also increased by 30 per cent in half of U.S. states from 1999 to 2017, contributing to a decline in U.S. life expectancy. Suicide loss also has a tremendous impact on families, communities and employers, with lifetime medical and work loss costs in the U.S. totalling US$50 to US$90 billion in 2013.
“Minimum wage increases may be one intervention to reduce income-based disparities in life expectancy, including from suicide,” say the researchers.
In its annual look at CEO compensation in Canada, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found the 100 highest-paid CEOs made 227 times more than the average worker made in 2018, up from 197 times average worker pay in 2017.
Wage gaps also persist between men and women – and between white, Indigenous and visible minority groups – despite a wide range of legislation intended to close them, according to a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.