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Member Research and Reports

Emory: Study Finds A $1 Increase in Minimum Wage Linked to 3.5-6 Percent Fall in Suicide Rate

A new study conducted by researchers at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health found that a $1 increase in minimum wage is linked to a 3.5-6 percent fall in suicide rates among people with a high school education or less. Their findings are published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The effect seems to be strongest during periods of high unemployment, the findings indicate.

In 2017, there were more than 47,000 preventable suicide deaths in the U.S., with suicides accounting for nearly one in five (19 percent) deaths among those ages 18-24. Between 1999 and 2017, suicide rates increased by more than 30 percent in half of the country.

Suicide risk is often associated with financial stressors, but less is known about the potential impact of economic interventions, such as minimum wage policies, on suicide rates.

To try and find out, the researchers looked at the difference between the effective state and federal minimum hourly wage for all 50 states and Washington, DC, and state unemployment and suicide rates among 18 to 64-year olds, for every month between 1990 and 2015.

Between 1990 and 2015, there were 478 changes in state minimum wages across the United States.  The average difference in wages between the states at and above the federal minimum wage was $2,200 a year for a full-time worker.

Between 1990 and 2015, 399,206 people with a high school education or less took their own lives compared with 140,176 people with a college degree or higher.

The researchers estimated a 3.5 to 6 percent reduction in suicides for every dollar increase in the minimum wage among 18-64-year-olds with a high school education or less. No such effect was apparent among those who were educated to college level or higher.

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