Researchers say raising the minimum wage could prevent more than 1,200 suicides a year

Scott Olson/GettyA man is seen protesting at McDonald’s Headquarters in Chicago in April, demanding a $US15 minimum wage.
  • A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research looks into the connection between so-called “deaths of despair” and the minimum wage and earned income tax credits (EITCs).
  • The researchers found that higher minimum wages and EITCs have had a positive impact on non-drug-related suicides among low-income Americans, especially with women.
  • They predict that raising the minimum wage and EITCs could lead to 1,230 less suicides a year.
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Raising the minimum wage and earned-income tax credits (EITCs) could lead to less suicides among low-income Americans, especially women, according to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The four University of California, Berkeley researchers who wrote the paper looked into the rise of so-called “deaths of despair” among less-educated Americans, which include both intentional and unintentional drug overdoses, and non-drug-related suicides.

They wanted to see how policies meant to improve the lives of lower-income Americans – the minimum wage and EITCs – could lead to fewer cases of “deaths of despair.”

While their modelling didn’t show higher minimum wages and EITCs having an impact on overdoses, either intentional or unintentional, they did “significantly reduce” suicides.


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“A 10% increase in the minimum wage reduces non-drug suicides among adults with high school or less by 3.6%; a 10% increase in the EITC reduces suicides among this group by 5.5%,” the researchers found.

Gender also played a role in how higher minimum wages and EITCs impacted suicide. The researchers found that the reduction in suicides were “more statistically significant for women; for men, effects of the minimum wage are only marginally significant.”

The researchers say they estimate that “increasing both the minimum wage and the EITC by 10% would likely prevent a combined total of around 1,230 suicides each year.”

This is good news not just for the families of potential suicide victims, but the economy as well, the researchers said.

“In addition to the tragedy and human suffering, suicides are also highly costly to the economy: One study estimates the average cost of a suicide suicide at $US1.3 million, primarily due to lost productivity,” the paper reads.

By preventing 1,230 suicides each year, the researchers say the US could be saving $US1.6 billion annually.

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