Historically, most of the research on minimum wage policy, both federal and state, has focused on economic impacts such as income and employment effects. Very limited research, until the past decade, has examined how minimum wage increases impact child and family poverty, birth outcomes, and parent and child health, but the emerging evidence finds mostly positive impacts in these areas. Most of the studies in this review examined incremental increases in the state minimum wage, such as the impacts of a $1 increase,L a 10 percent increase,H or a given increase above the federal level in the state minimum wage,J rather than examining the impacts of a particular minimum wage level.
However, a review of the state data included in the studies found that most of the empirical evidence revealing beneficial impacts extended to minimum wages as high as $10. This review found some positive impacts for minimum wages as high as $15,M,P but such studies tended to employ simulations and estimates projecting future impacts, rather than examining the effects of increases that had already been implemented, or they were focused on specific localities (e.g., New York City, Santa Clara County) rather than statewide increases. More statewide research on the effects of a $12 to $15 minimum wage, as more states implement wages in this range, will be valuable for confirming the threshold that provides the greatest impact to families with the least detrimental impacts on employment. Not every study in this review focused exclusively on parents when examining outcomes such as employment or adult mental health, but subgroup results for parents or households with children ages 0 to 3 are presented when available.
The research discussed here meets our standards of evidence for being methodologically strong and allowing for causal inference, unless otherwise noted. Each strong causal study reviewed has been assigned a letter, and a complete list of causal studies can be found at the end of this review, along with more details about our standards of evidence and review method. The findings from each strong causal study reviewed align with one of our eight policy goals from Table 1. The Evidence of Effectiveness table below displays the findings associated with the state minimum wage (beneficial, null,ii or detrimental) for each of the strong studies (A through BB) in the causal studies reference list, as well as our conclusions about the overall impact on each studied policy goal. The assessment of the overall impact for each studied policy goal weighs the timing of publication and relative strength of each study, as well as the size and direction of all measured indicators.
Table 2: Evidence of Effectiveness for the State Minimum Wage by Policy Goal
|Policy Goal||Indicator||Beneficial Impacts||Null Impacts||Detrimental Impacts||Overall Impact on Goal|
|Access to Needed Services||Prenatal Care Use||Q||Mostly Null|
|Health Insurance Coverage||Z|
|Child Has Usual Place for Medical Care||Z|
|Visits to a Doctor||Z|
|Parents’ Ability to Work||Employment||C, K, Y||A, D, F, G||I, M, V, X||Mixed|
|Hours Worked||G, Y||I, V|
|Sufficient Household Resources||Earnings/Income||A, E, F, K, M, Y||I||Mostly Positive|
|Wages||D, G, I, M, V|
|Poverty||E, G, K, M, Y||O|
|Child Poverty||E, G, Y, AA|
|Access to Credit||W*|
|Auto Loan Debt||W|
|Public Assistance Receipt||E, Y||O|
|Healthy and Equitable Births||Birthweight||J, Q⁺||Positive|
|Infant Mortality||H, J|
|Parental Health and Emotional Wellbeing||Reductions in Adult Mortality||P||Mostly Positive|
|Smoking During Pregnancy||Q|
|Rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections||BB|
|Adult Suicide Rate||S, T|
|Serious Psychological Distress||U|
|Optimal Child Health and Development||Neglect||L||Mixed|
|Missed School Days Due to Illness/Injury||R|
* Study W found a marginally significant (p<0.10) increase in access to credit for all households in the sample, but found statistically significant (p<0.05) increases in access to credit for those with low credit scores (below 660) and young borrowers (those age 35 and below) following a minimum wage increase.
⁺ Study Q found a 1 percent decrease in the probability of low birthweight, a small increase in birthweight (grams) and fetal growth rate, and an insignificant increase in gestational age following a minimum wage increase.
Access to Needed Services
Only one study examined the effects of a higher minimum wage on prenatal care use, but results were promising, though modest.Q The authors found that a $1 increase in the state minimum wage led to a 2 percent increase in the number of prenatal care visits, a 5 percent decrease in the likelihood of having fewer than five visits, and a 1 percent increase in the likelihood of accessing care in the first trimester.Q A 2019 study examined the impact of higher minimum wages on children’s health care access, finding overall null results for the likelihood of health coverage, having a usual place to receive medical care, and frequency of doctor’s visits (e.g., child saw a doctor in the past year, child had more than one visit in the past year, child had a checkup in the past year).Z Subgroup analyses revealed results in various directions—children with immigrant parents were marginally more likely to have seen a doctor more than once in the past year, but significantly less likely to have had a checkup in the past year with a higher minimum wage.
Parents’ Ability to Work
Evidence suggests that overall, state minimum wage increases have mixed effects on employment and hours for low-wage workers, with most increases leading to insignificant effects on employment.A,D,F,G Most studies that have found detrimental impacts have examined specific cities or industries, have examined levels between $13 and $15, or have found very small effect sizes that may be outweighed by increased wages, leaving families better off overall.I,M,V,X
Three studies suggest that minimum wage increases may have small beneficial impacts on employment, particularly for disadvantaged groups. One of the earliest and most widely cited studies examining state minimum wage increases was a 1994 analysis of the fast food industry in New Jersey and neighboring Pennsylvania.C The study found that employment in New Jersey, which had raised its minimum wage by 80 cents, actually increased 13 percent relative to Pennsylvania, which did not raise its wage. A 2011 study found that coupled with a 10 percent earned income tax credit (EITC) supplement, a state minimum wage that was 25 percent higher than the sample mean produced a significant 2.2 percent increase in employment for single mothers with no college degree compared to a minimum wage at the sample mean.K A 2019 study found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage boosted, by 4 percent, the likelihood that children of mothers with no college degree had a working parent, with the greatest effects for children ages 0 through 5 (an increase of 7 percent).Y
Four studies have found null impacts of increased minimum wages on employment. A 2018 study of six cities with recent minimum wage increases to greater than $10 found that the employment impacts associated with a 10 percent wage increase ranged from a 0.3 percent decrease to a 1.1 percent increase.A A national 2019 study found that over the time period from 1979 to 2016, minimum wage increases led to an insignificant employment increase of 2.8 percent,D and a 2010 study by some of the same authors had found similarly null results, concluding that the employment impacts were “indistinguishable from 0”F (p. 945). Another 2019 study found null effects, with results trending in both positive and negative directions depending on the subgroup examined (e.g., teens, adults with less than a high school degree, etc.).G Four studies have found negative impacts on employment resulting from higher minimum wages. A 2018 study of Seattle’s gradual increase from $9.47 to $13 found a loss of 5,000 jobs and a 6.9 percent decrease in hours worked, which outweighed the 3.2 percent net increase in wages.I The first phase of the increase, from $9.47 to $11, had no significant impact on employment. Another local study, estimating the impacts of a new $15 minimum wage in Santa Clara County, California, known as Silicon Valley, predicted that 1,350 fewer jobs would be created annually as a result of the increase.M However, the study also predicted a reduction of 8.2 percent in poverty, and all cities in the county implemented new minimum wage increases in 2020, with some as high as $16.05.18 A study focusing on the retail sector in the US found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage was associated with a 2.6 percent decrease in full-time retail employment, but the wage increase had no significant effect on the employment of part-time workers.V Finally, a 2019 study examined how minimum wage increases affect restaurant employment in various states, and the authors found an overall 0.2 percent decrease in employment for every 1 percent increase in the minimum wage when results across states were pooled.X The authors noted that this pooled effect masks the differences the study found in states across the country, most of which saw no negative effects on employment.
Sufficient Household Resources
Evidence from six studiesA,E,F,K,M,Y suggests that minimum wage increases lift earnings for low-wage workers, leaving workers better off overall given the mostly null or small effects found for employment discussed above.19 A 2018 study of six cities with minimum wages over $10 found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage increased earnings between 1.3 and 2.5 percent,A and a 2019 national study found that minimum wage increases were associated with significant increases in family income, particularly for lower-income families who are most likely to benefit from an increase in the wage floor.E In particular, the author’s estimates, based on state minimum wages from 1984 to 2013, indicated that if all states were to raise their minimum wages to $12, the US would see a 1.9 percentage point (or 15 percent) reduction in poverty, representing 6.2 million people transitioning out of poverty. The author also projected a 12.2 percent ($1,826) annual increase in after-tax-and-transfer family earnings among the lowest-income families (those near the 10th percentile).E
Another national study, in 2010, found significant positive earnings elasticities that suggested a 1.5 to 2.3 percent increase in earnings for a 10 percent increase in the state minimum wage.F A 2011 study examining the combination of a higher minimum wage with the earned income tax credit found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, coupled with a 10 percent state EITC,ii led to an 8.3 percent increase in earnings for single mothers.K The 2019 study of Santa Clara County mentioned above also predicted an earnings increase of 19.4 percent for workers previously making under $15, if the wage floor were raised to that level.M A 2019 study focusing specifically on parents found a significant increase in earned income ($349 in annual earnings) for families headed by single mothers following a 10 percent minimum wage increase.Y Only the 2018 Seattle study found negative effects on overall income; the authors estimated a total annual loss of $72 million after factoring in decreased employment and hours worked.I
Results are mostly positive for the effects on poverty, with six studies finding reduced child or overall poverty, and one study finding an insignificant, though beneficial, effect.E,G,K,M,O,Y,AA A 2019 study found a significant reduction in poverty linked to 10 percent minimum wage increases, with large effects for children—a reduction in poverty of 4.9 percent for those under age 18.E Significant, large effects were also found for Black and Latinxiii individuals (reduction in poverty of 8.7 percent), and people under age 30 without a high school degree (4.3 percent).
A second 2019 study found that higher minimum wages led to significant reductions in child poverty (1.3 percentage points) in regions of the country with the lowest median wages,iv where proportionately more individuals benefited from minimum wage increases.G The minimum wage/EITC study mentioned above also found that the earned income tax credit’s poverty-reduction effects are amplified by a higher minimum wage; the authors concluded that a 10 percent state EITC supplement reduced poverty among single-mother families with children by 1.6 percentage points at the sample mean of the state minimum wage, but reduced poverty by 2.3 percentage points when the minimum wage was 10 percent higher than the mean, and by 3.4 percentage points when the minimum wage was 25 percent higher than the mean.K The Santa Clara study predicted an 8.2 percent reduction in poverty, as mentioned above.M Another 2019 study found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage reduced poverty by 0.6 percentage points, or 5.9 percent, among children with parents with no college degree.Y The effects were found to be greatest (9.6 percent) for children under age 6. Finally, a 2008 study found that a 10 percent increase in the real minimum wage (adjusted for inflation) reduced the child poverty rate in single mother-headed families by 1.8 percentage points.AA
Findings for other measures of economic security, such as access to credit, household debt, and material hardship, are more mixed. A 2019 study found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage boosts successful credit applications by an insignificant 7.7 percent, but effects were significant for borrowers with low credit scores and young borrowers, who may be more affected by minimum wage increases.W The study also found a significant 20.8 percent decline in household debt for those with low credit scores, with null effects for the overall sample. Another 2019 study found that a 1 percent increase in the minimum wage was associated with a 2.6 percent decrease in rental default.N A third study found null effects of minimum wage increases on the likelihood of participating in public assistance programs, such as food and rental assistance, and on the likelihood of reporting difficulties meeting expenses, paying rent, and affording medical coverage.O Two other studies, however, found significant reductions in receipt of public benefits alongside reduced poverty and higher earned income, suggesting that families achieved better economic security after minimum wage increases despite the reduction in benefits.E,Y
Healthy and Equitable Births
Although a large research base links greater overall income and wealth to better health across the life span, comparatively few studies have examined the relationship between higher minimum wages and birth outcomes.20,21 However, four recent studies, discussed below, have begun to build the evidence base in this area with modest results in the positive direction.B,H,J,Q
A 2016 study used data on birth outcomes from 1980 to 2011 across the US and found that state minimum wages that were higher than the federal floor were significantly associated with reduced prevalence of low birthweight and infant mortality. In particular, each dollar above the federal minimum wage was linked to a 1 to 2 percent decrease in prevalence of low birthweight and a 4 percent decrease in infant mortality.J A 2018 analysis examined 46 million births to women with a high school degree or less between 1989 and 2012 and found that a $1 minimum wage increase was linked to a significant 1 percent decrease in low birthweight births, and a 4.04 gram (0.1 percent) increase in birthweight, but the wage increase had small, insignificant effects on reducing the number of preterm births.Q A second 2018 study found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage was associated with a 3.2 percent reduction in infant mortality among mothers with a high school degree or less.H
Research also suggests a link between higher state minimum wages and reduced teen births. A 2017 study of birth rates in the US from 2003 to 2014 found that a $1 increase in the state minimum wage was associated with a 2 percent decrease in adolescent births.B Although the findings in these studies trend in the positive direction, more research is needed to corroborate the results as states continue to increase their minimum wages to untested levels. The highest minimum wages in these studies were in the $9 to $10 range.
Parental Health and Emotional Wellbeing
Evidence for how higher minimum wages may impact adult health is mixed and supported by fewer studies than the economic outcomes discussed above. However, some promising results are emerging. A study of adults in New York City estimated that a $15 minimum wage, had it been implemented at the time, may have prevented between 2,800 and 5,000 premature deaths (deaths before age 65) between 2008 and 2012.P As of December 31, 2019, both large and small employers must adhere to a minimum wage of $15 in New York City.22 A 2018 national study of mothers and infants found that a $1 increase in the minimum wage was associated with a 7 percent decline in maternal smoking.Q A 2020 study found null effects on adult health outcomes including diabetes, hypertension, overall health, and obesity for the overall sample, although women saw an increased likelihood of diabetes with a higher minimum wage, men saw a higher likelihood of obesity, and men saw a lower likelihood of hypertension.U The authors suggested that a variety of mediating factors complicate the link between higher pay and health; for example, outcomes like obesity may have genetic contributions, and some individuals may not have access to health coverage even with a higher wage. Finally, a 2019 longitudinal study using 13 years of data found that a $1 increase in the state minimum wage led to lower rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) among women; the authors measured between an 8.5 percent and 19.7 percent drop depending on the STI.BB
Three causal studies have examined links between the state minimum wage and adult mental health, finding positive results. A 2019 study examined the effects of higher minimum wages on suicides, estimating that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage may reduce non-drug suicides among adults with at most a high school degree by 3.6 percent.S The authors also examined the impacts of the state earned income tax credit, estimating that if both the minimum wage and the EITC were increased by 10 percent across states, the US may see 1,230 fewer suicides per year. A 2020 study corroborated those results, finding that a $1 increase in the minimum wage may reduce suicides by between 3.4 and 5.9 percent for less-educated adults.T Another 2019 study, excluded from the evidence review because of a study design that did not allow for causal inference, revealed a 1.9 percent decline in suicides for each $1 increase in the minimum wage.23 Finally, a 2020 study found statistically insignificant, though beneficial, effects of a higher minimum wage on the proportion of adults who reported themselves to be in serious psychological distress (a 6 percent decrease).U
Nurturing and Responsive Child Care in Safe Settings
The interaction between higher state and local minimum wages and the child care sector has garnered discussion of possible negative impacts on the supply and affordability of care.27 No causal studies on this topic were identified for inclusion in this review, but a recent descriptive study examined the responses of Seattle child care providers to the city’s gradual minimum wage increase from $9.47 to $15 ($16.39 for large employers) between 2014 and 2021.13 The study’s survey of 41 child care centers found that by 2017, 90 percent of the centers had raised prices to account for the increased minimum wage, and the second most common response was to reduce hours or staff. More rigorous research on child care provider responses to higher minimum wages would be valuable to the prenatal-to-3 field.
Optimal Child Health and Development
Researchers at the University of Iowa College of Public Health began an ongoing project in 2019 to examine the links between the minimum wage and long-term child health and development.24 A 2020 study published as part of this project found that a $1 increase in the minimum wage during pregnancy had a null effect on children’s health, but a $1 increase from birth through age 5 had a significant positive impact on the likelihood that a child was reported to be in excellent or very good health from ages 6 through 12 (an 8.7 percent increase).R A $1 increase through age 5 also significantly reduced the likelihood that children would miss school from ages 6 through 12 because of illness or injury (a 15.6 percent reduction in missed school days). A 2019 study using survey data from 2000 to 2015 found no overall significant effects of higher minimum wages on the health outcomes of children (including those with immigrant parents) in the US as reported by their parents (such as health rating on a scale of poor, fair, very good, or excellent).Z
A 2017 study revealed that higher state minimum wages led to reduced child maltreatment rates; in particular, the authors found a 9.6 percent reduction in neglect reports with each $1 increase in the minimum wage (a 10.8 percent reduction for children ages 0 to 5).L Effects were not significant for physical abuse, but trended in the beneficial direction (a reduction of 15 reports per 100,000 children for each $1 increase). This finding is consistent with prior research on the link between poverty and child neglect reports,25 and it suggests that higher minimum wages may be an effective tool for improving child welfare by improving parents’ ability to meet their children’s material needs.26
- An impact is considered statistically significant if p<0.05.
- The study did not require the 10 percent supplement to be refundable in this analysis, but the authors noted that over 80 percent of the families in the sample who lived in states with an EITC were in states with a refundable EITC.
- The referenced report used “Latino” rather than Hispanic, suggesting that the analysis may have included individuals from Latin American countries whose primary language is not Spanish (e.g., Brazil).
- In particular, the study found that the reduction in child poverty was significant in regions of the country where the ratio of the minimum wage to the median wage was 0.6 or greater.