Diversity & Equality in Health and Care Open Access

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Chronic Disease and Minimum Wage: Disparities in Diagnosis among Black and Hispanic Workers

Molly M Jacobs* and Lee Ann Johnson

Introduction: While the positive correlation between earnings and health outcomes is well-established, little is known about the relationship between minimum wages and health. Even though some counties and municipalities set minimum wages above the federally mandated level, the impact of these higher wages on the health of low wage workers is not clear.
Methods: Using the 2019 Selected Metropolitan/Micropolitan Area Risk Trends of the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System this study examines the relationship between the number of chronic disease diagnoses and county-level minimum wages. Since insurance benefits, employment, and chronic disease outcomes are interdependent, and individual health endowments are unobserved, a structural equation modelling framework is used to model complex relationships between the county-level minimum wages and individual health, employment status, insurance, and chronic disease outcomes.
Results: Even after controlling for employment, insurance, and age, results indicate higher minimum wages are associated with fewer chronic disease diagnoses. Findings are robust to various model specifications and distributional assumptions. Likely a reflection of their higher chronic disease burden and increased likelihood earning low wage, the impact of wage on chronic disease is greater for Hispanic and African American workers than Whites.
Conclusion: Among historically oppressed populations, increases in the federally mandated minimum could improve chronic disease outcomes. Policy makers and labour advocates should consider health-related justifications in their efforts to lobby for higher federal, state, and local minimum wages.

Published Date: 2024-03-04; Received Date: 2024-02-05