Can Economic Policies Reduce Deaths of Despair?



Do minimum wages and the EITC mitigate rising “deaths of despair?” We leverage state variation in these policies over time to estimate event study and difference-in-differences models of deaths due to drug overdose, suicide, and alcohol-related causes. Our causal models find no significant effects on drug or alcohol-related mortality, but do find significant reductions in nondrug suicides. A 10 percent minimum wage increase reduces non-drug suicides among loweducated adults by 2.7 percent; the comparable EITC figure is 3.0 percent. Placebo tests and event-study models support our causal research design. Increasing both policies by 10 percent
would likely prevent a combined total of more than 700 suicides each year.