Higher Minimum Wage Is Linked to Fewer Suicides in People With High School Education or Less

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Suicide is often connected to financial stress, so it makes sense that increasing income might reduce the risk of suicide. A recent study funded by NIMHD found that every $1 increase in the minimum wage of US states could reduce the suicide rate in people with high school education or less by 6%. 

The researchers used National Vital Statistics System data on suicides in people aged 18-64 years from all 50 states and the District of Columbia for every month from 1990 to 2015. The data included race, age, and education level of the people who died by suicide. The researchers also looked at the federal and state minimum hourly wages during the same period. States can set a minimum wage above the federal minimum wage, and minimum wages generally went up over this period. Independent legal analysts determined how much each state’s minimum wage differed from the federal minimum wage from 1990 to 2015. The researchers also obtained data on each state’s monthly unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The researchers estimated that a $1 increase in state minimum wage above prevailing levels would have prevented 27,550 suicides by people with no more than a high school education. The researchers also found that increasing the minimum wage reduced suicide rates more in periods of high unemployment and less in periods of low unemployment. Increasing the minimum wage by $1 after the recession of 2009 would have prevented an estimated 13,800 suicides among people of ages 18 to 64 with a high school education or less. However, increasing the minimum wage does not seem to affect suicide risk among people with at least a college degree, who generally earn well beyond the minimum wage.

This study highlights a possible connection between minimum wage and suicide risk for people with low income and education levels.


Kaufman, J. A., Salas-Hernández, L. K., Komro, K. A., & Livingston, M. D. (2020). Effects of increased minimum wages by unemployment rate on suicide in the USA. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech-2019-212981.

Page updated January 14, 2022