The suicide rate in the U.S. has been increasing in recent years. Previous studies have consistently identified financial stress as a contributing factor in suicides. Nevertheless, there has been little research on the effect of economic policies that can alleviate financial stress on suicide rates. The purpose of this study is to determine whether increases in state minimum wages have been associated with changes in state suicide rates.
A retrospective panel data study was conducted. In 2018, linear regression models with state fixed effects were used to estimate the relationship between changes in state minimum wages and suicide rates for all 50U.S. states between 2006 and 2016. Models controlled for time-varying state characteristics that could be associated with changes in minimum wages and suicide rates.
There were approximately 432,000 deaths by suicide in the study period. A one-dollar increase in the real minimum wage was associated on average with a 1.9% decrease in the annual state suicide rate in adjusted analyses. This negative association was most consistent in years since 2011. An annual decrease of 1.9% in the suicide rate during the study period would have resulted in roughly 8,000 fewer deaths by suicide. Analyses by race and sex did not reveal substantial variation in the association between minimum wages and suicides.
Increases in real minimum wages have been associated with slower growth in state suicide rates in recent years. Increasing the minimum wage could represent a strategy for addressing increases in suicide rates.