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UW study: Raising minimum wage requires ‘nuanced’ approach

A new study looks into the minimum wage. (AP)

There have been studies claiming that a lower minimum wage can directly affect the health of workers. University of Washington researchers looked to test that theory themselves, and came to some interesting conclusions.

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Using data from the annual National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, researchers looked at roughly 130,000 people between the working ages of 25 and 64 years old. Looking at six different health outcomes related to a lower or higher minimum wage, they found that it has little effect on health.

“Overall, we really didn’t find an effect of minimum wage on health, which kind of surprised us,” UW associate professor Heather Hill told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross.

Hill qualified that conclusion by pointing out that the study found “mixed effects for different groups of workers.”

“That means when you look at the overall effect, it looks like no difference,” she noted.

That being so, the true aim of the study then became to figure out which workers stand to benefit from higher mandated wages, and which ones might actually see adverse effects.

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“It’s important to figure out — are there ways you could design the minimum wage? Are there levels you could set it at? Are there ways you could implement it that might not have any negative effects?” Hill posited. “It’s not an indictment of the minimum wage as an approach. It’s really more that as this research area starts to get larger, and people are doing more and more studies on minimum wage and health, we need to be nuanced about it.”

Further recent UW studies also came to other conclusions. One gathered that businesses will most often respond to mandated wage increases by reducing their staff numbers and hours.

A subsequent study looked into how phasing into a $15-an-hour minimum wage affects grocery prices, finding little to no change in Seattle.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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