The EITC Can Help Reduce “Deaths of Despair,” New Research Finds

By Andrea Ruggirello

Increasing the incomes of low-wage workers, through boosts to the minimum wage and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), can help reduce the number of deaths by suicide according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers from UC Berkeley,  examined state and federal increases to the minimum wage and EITC over 16 years to explore their effects on suicide, drug and alcohol-related deaths among people aged 18-64. The findings show that 10 percent increases in both the minimum wage and the EITC may prevent a total of 1200 suicides every year. Specifically, the team found that after a 10 percent increase in minimum wage, the number of suicides among those with high school education or less dropped 3.6 percent; a 10 percent increase in EITC reduced suicides among this group by 5.5 percent.

Can Economic Policies Reduce Deaths of Despair?” joins a growing body of research linking income and health and is the first to credibly establish a causal link between higher income and a lower suicide rate for this population. The findings from this study are consistent with other research, which correlates economic factors, such as unemployment and home foreclosures, with suicide.

Researcher William Dow, interim dean of the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley said, “Our results show that even modest increases to the incomes of low-wage workers can make a difference.” He notes that the largest effects were on women who were more likely to work minimum-wage jobs and be eligible for the EITC. You can read the report in full here.