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85 The association between state minimum wage laws and fatal occupational injuries
  1. Molly Merrill-Francis,
  2. Keshia Pollack Porterk,
  3. Jon Vernick
  1. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


Statement of Purpose Minimum wage laws (MWLs) have the potential to affect risk factors for occupational injury such as stress, job satisfaction, and health. A prior study found that increasing state MWLs was associated with an increase in non-fatal occupational injuries. This study evaluates the associations between state MWLs and fatal occupational injuries.

Methods Fatal occupational injury data from 2003–2017 were obtained from the national Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. LawAtlas provided information about state MWLs. Fifty-state regressions were fitted, with state MWLs modeled as: 1) an indicator variable, when state law exceeded the federal minimum wage, in a comparative interrupted time series and 2) a continuous variable, representing the dollar value of the state minimum wage, in a Poisson regression. Model covariates included: measures of poverty, share of the state population in the riskiest industries, other laws that might affect fatal occupational injuries, and state demographic variables.

Results State MWLs higher than the federal rate are associated with a nonsignificant 1.63% decrease (CI: -9.18% to +5.91%) in fatal occupational injury rates. Every one dollar increase in the state minimum wage is associated with a nonsignificant 3.43% decrease (CI: -7.80% to +1.12%) in fatal occupational injuries.

Conclusion State MWLs are not associated with an increased risk of fatal occupational injuries. Concerns that raising the minimum wage will cause employers to cut back on workplace safety measures may be unfounded. Further research is needed to determine if the non-significance of the results is caused by a lack of statistical power.

Significance and Contributions to Injury and Violence Prevention Science This work builds on previous literature calling low wages an occupational health hazard. It can inform discussions on whether social policy can be used to help protect workers from injuries.

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