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Higher minimum wages linked to reduced suicide rate

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Nocturnes rest
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Higher minimum wages linked to reduced suicide rate

Postby Nocturnes rest » Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:59 pm

...With caveats

Ars Technica wrote:In the US, suicide is a major public health issue, with double-digit percentages of the preventable deaths for adults under 45. And, disconcertingly, the rates have been rising over recent decades. But recognizing this as a source of preventable deaths is very different from actually figuring out how to prevent them.

One of the challenges is that a variety of factors feed into the depression and stress that are associated with suicide, so identifying which ones play the most significant roles, and figuring out how to address them, is a challenge. A number of studies, however, have indicated that financial stressors are a significant contributor. And a few recent studies have suggested a public policy that can reduce financial stress does seem to have an influence on suicide rates: the minimum wage.

Now, researchers from Emory University have followed those up with a comprehensive look at the correlations between suicide rate and minimum wage laws. They find that the correlation does hold up, but only among those with a high school education or less, and only during times of high unemployment.

Nationwide data plan

The minimum wage might seem like an odd thing to look at, but it's one of those situations where we already have a surprising amount of data that points toward it. Suicides are often associated with financial stressors, like job loss or mounting debt. Suicide and depression most often affect people who have lower incomes and education, both of which mean the individuals are frequently working at or near the minimum wage. So, it's not hard to understand why researchers might be interested in taking a look.

Taking a look also involves gathering sets of data that are actually tracked fairly well (unlike many other social factors). Minimum wage laws are structured fairly simply: there's a federal minimum wage, which states can exceed but not undercut. Individual state rules are a matter of legislation that can be easily tracked. And, conveniently, a number of states changed the minimum wage during the period the researchers were studying, providing a before-and-after experiment. Adjusting the minimum wage for inflation is also easy to do with publicly available numbers.

The US maintains a National Vital Statistics System, which provides data derived from every death certificate, including cause of death and the deceased's educational achievement. States also track useful data like its share of the GDP, its unemployment rate, and various forms of public assistance. Collectively, these were analyzed to determine if and how minimum wage rules correlated with suicide rates.

The specific analysis done was a difference in differences analysis. This used people with a college-level education as the control group, since they're far less likely to either commit suicide or be working at or near the minimum wage. Their response to changes in the minimum wage laws (which should be minimal) was compared to that of people with a high school education or less; all of this was tracked on a month-by-month basis.

Focused effects

As expected, changes in the minimum wage had no effect on suicide rates among those with a college education. But those with lower education levels were more sensitive to it. For those with a high school degree or less, "We estimated a six percent reduction in suicide for every dollar increase in the minimum wage among adults aged 18–64 years." Controlling for a number of the additional state-level economic factors the authors tracked made the effect drop to 3.5 percent, although it was still present.

But it wasn't just a matter of who was affected—there was also an issue of when. If unemployment was below four percent, changing the minimum wage had no significant effect. But when it was above six percent, higher minimum wages appeared to have a much stronger impact on suicide rates. The peak impact occurred when unemployment was over seven percent and minimum wages were $1.75 or more above the federal minimum.

The researchers also looked specifically at the 2008 economic collapse and estimate that a $1 minimum wage increase could have prevented over 13,000 suicides if previous trends held for this period.

The researchers acknowledge there are almost certainly additional complications. Demographic groups like women, blacks, and Hispanics are more likely to be paid at or near the minimum wage. Yet the suicide rates for these groups differ considerably. And, as noted above, a number of other economic factors may modulate any impacts of the minimum wage.

Still, the result is consistent with the idea that things that lower economic stress at times where those stresses are elevated could reduce some of the factors—stress and depression—that elevate suicide risks. And that, in the end, is probably more useful information, as the minimum wage is not a policy tool that can be easily deployed during times of economic crisis, since it can't realistically be withdrawn once the crisis has passed. But, armed with this information, researchers could possibly identify alternate policies that produce equivalent reductions in economic distress.

Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2020. DOI: 10.1136/jech-2019-212981 (About DOIs).


Admittedly, there are asterisks concerning the minimum wage's connection to suicide rates, but if it'll help with reducing the high suicide rate in some form, I'm for it. To be fair, I'm for an increase in our minimum wage, anyway (It is far too low and loses purchasing power as inflation continues), but adding another reason to support it just makes it an even better sell in my eyes.

So, what say ye NSG? Should we raise the minimum wage to decrease suicide rates, should we do something else, or do nothing at all?
Last edited by Nocturnes rest on Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Kavagrad » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:05 pm

People making a better wage are less likely to suffer from stress and depression than people that are struggling to pay rent, and are therefore less likely to commit suicide? This required a study? I could've told you that for free.
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Postby Trollzyn the Infinite » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:07 pm

Kavagrad wrote:People making a better wage are less likely to suffer from stress and depression than people that are struggling to pay rent, and are therefore less likely to commit suicide? This required a study? I could've told you that for free.


Anyone who isn't a corporate goon or Kool-Aid drinker could've told you that, really.
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Postby Liriena » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:08 pm

Ars Technica doing the lord's work as always.

Glad that we have an empirical basis to argue for a higher minimum wage on the basis of basic human dignity.
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Postby Trollzyn the Infinite » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:10 pm

Liriena wrote:Ars Technica doing the lord's work as always.

Glad that we have an empirical basis to argue for a higher minimum wage on the basis of basic human dignity.


I don't think the politicians accepting "donations" from monopolies are going to care how logical and factually proven your arguments are.

More likely they'll just call you a communist and claim you're trying to give everything away for free.
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Postby Galloism » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:17 pm

Having done a lot of tax prep for the poor, I can tell you this surprises me absolutely none.

It's interesting to watch somebody go from an $8.25/hr job to a $10/hr job, and suddenly they don't have to wait for their refund to come in before they can pay me - they know what it costs, and they've reserved it ahead of time. Because they're not literally backs against the wall all the time.

There's the exception that will always be back against the wall because they can't plan, but they are the exception, not the rule.
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Postby Great Aletia » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:21 pm

I'm not surprised that not having to worry about whether or not you'll have a house or food the next month correlates with not wanting to die.

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Postby Duvniask » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:21 pm

Trollzyn the Infinite wrote:
Kavagrad wrote:People making a better wage are less likely to suffer from stress and depression than people that are struggling to pay rent, and are therefore less likely to commit suicide? This required a study? I could've told you that for free.


Anyone who isn't a corporate goon or Kool-Aid drinker could've told you that, really.

So, far from everyone.


Trollzyn the Infinite wrote:
Liriena wrote:Ars Technica doing the lord's work as always.

Glad that we have an empirical basis to argue for a higher minimum wage on the basis of basic human dignity.


I don't think the politicians accepting "donations" from monopolies are going to care how logical and factually proven your arguments are.

More likely they'll just call you a communist and claim you're trying to give everything away for free.

"Muh job creators"
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Postby Nobel Hobos 2 » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:23 pm

Yeah, less financial stress and more discretionary spending, relieving depression.

There might be another factor though. A higher minimum wage pushes employers to make their lowest-paid job more productive, that is, make a better job. More job satisfaction might relieve depression as much as more money does.
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Postby Trollzyn the Infinite » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:24 pm

Galloism wrote:Having done a lot of tax prep for the poor, I can tell you this surprises me absolutely none.

It's interesting to watch somebody go from an $8.25/hr job to a $10/hr job, and suddenly they don't have to wait for their refund to come in before they can pay me - they know what it costs, and they've reserved it ahead of time. Because they're not literally backs against the wall all the time.

There's the exception that will always be back against the wall because they can't plan, but they are the exception, not the rule.


Minimum wage in Florida is $8ish. I get paid $11ish and even with my mother paying half the rent we still have to scrape by just to live down here. I don't think anyone being paid $8/hour could possibly live on their own down here and afford anything other than rent - if that. It's a racket.
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Postby Kowani » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:22 pm

Are we supposed to be surprised?
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Postby Neu California » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:28 pm

Kowani wrote:Are we supposed to be surprised?

Not really. I just want to see how the anti-minimum wage people respond
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Postby The united American-Isreali empire » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:30 pm

very interesting!

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Postby Cappuccina » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:34 pm

Liriena wrote:Ars Technica doing the lord's work as always.

Glad that we have an empirical basis to argue for a higher minimum wage on the basis of basic human dignity.

People tend to forget that economics is a thing that can't be ignored, what should be done and what can be done are often not synonymous.
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Postby USS Monitor » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:34 pm

You don't say!

But yeah, it makes sense that stressing out about money can wear on people.
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Postby USS Monitor » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:37 pm

Cappuccina wrote:
Liriena wrote:Ars Technica doing the lord's work as always.

Glad that we have an empirical basis to argue for a higher minimum wage on the basis of basic human dignity.

People tend to forget that economics is a thing that can't be ignored, what should be done and what can be done are often not synonymous.


Minimum wage can be raised.
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Postby Necroghastia » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:51 pm

Kowani wrote:Are we supposed to be surprised?

No, but it's always good to have data to back up common sense, especially over something that is oft-politicized.
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Postby Cappuccina » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:53 pm

USS Monitor wrote:
Cappuccina wrote:People tend to forget that economics is a thing that can't be ignored, what should be done and what can be done are often not synonymous.


Minimum wage can be raised.

How much should it be raised? How much do people expect to make on the bottom line, hmm?
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Postby Kowani » Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:00 pm

Cappuccina wrote:
USS Monitor wrote:
Minimum wage can be raised.

How much should it be raised? How much do people expect to make on the bottom line, hmm?

Well, assuming that the economy doesn’t fall into a recession (which it inevitably will eventually), and careful implementation over time, the minimum wage can theoretically be raised infinitely so long as inflation keeps up with it.
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Postby Cappuccina » Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:05 pm

Kowani wrote:
Cappuccina wrote:How much should it be raised? How much do people expect to make on the bottom line, hmm?

Well, assuming that the economy doesn’t fall into a recession (which it inevitably will eventually), and careful implementation over time, the minimum wage can theoretically be raised infinitely so long as inflation keeps up with it.

That doesn't mean anything, the minimum wage is already raised to account for inflation.
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Postby Kowani » Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:09 pm

Cappuccina wrote:
Kowani wrote:Well, assuming that the economy doesn’t fall into a recession (which it inevitably will eventually), and careful implementation over time, the minimum wage can theoretically be raised infinitely so long as inflation keeps up with it.

That doesn't mean anything, the minimum wage is already raised to account for inflation.

No it’s not. Once you adjust for inflation, it peaked in 1968, and has only lost purchasing power since.
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Postby Arkhane » Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:12 pm

"People who have more money most of the time wouldn't be depressed."

Astute observation there. I mean if I could sell my home made cookies for 60$ a dozen it would really make life easier and less depressing for me.

It's too bad that people have this silly concept of supply and demand, the government should subsidize my cookies if I don't earn much because people find my living wage prices too high.

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Postby USS Monitor » Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:23 pm

Cappuccina wrote:
USS Monitor wrote:
Minimum wage can be raised.

How much should it be raised? How much do people expect to make on the bottom line, hmm?


There should be a small increase every year, or every couple of years, so people's income gradually rises.
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Postby Telconi » Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:14 pm

USS Monitor wrote:
Cappuccina wrote:How much should it be raised? How much do people expect to make on the bottom line, hmm?


There should be a small increase every year, or every couple of years, so people's income gradually rises.


The only problem with minimum wage increases is their relationship with inflation goes both ways.
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Postby Nobel Hobos 2 » Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:12 pm

Telconi wrote:
USS Monitor wrote:
There should be a small increase every year, or every couple of years, so people's income gradually rises.


The only problem with minimum wage increases is their relationship with inflation goes both ways.


You mean it causes inflation?

It doesn't cause much for the whole economy, as not that many people are on minimum wage. Furthermore, those people are of course near the bottom of all wages so the increase is a tiny percentage of wages-available-for-spending which drive prices.

And even if minimum wage increases of say 20% caused inflation of 3% (an actually bad scenario as total inflation would be 5%) those people and any other low paid workers who benefitted would be much better off. And it would come at the expense of higher-paid workers whose wage would be worth less in real terms. That's justified by equity.
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