Working Papers

Minimum Wages and Health

A Reassessment

A growing literature has reported significant health effects of the minimum wage. Yet recently published articles have often focused on broad groups of less educated workers with no more than a high school education, of whom only a small share work in minimum wage jobs.

We reassess this evidence, pooling data from the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System from 1993–2017, a common dataset for studying these policies. We focus on less educated young workers age 18–25, who are over twice as likely to earn near the minimum than the groups of adults typically studied. We analyze 21 measures of health care access, preventive practices, behaviors and health status. We find little evidence past policies have influenced young workers’ health on average. We find similar null results from expanded samples that include all less educated workers age 18–54. Our results suggest that the significant effects reported in prior studies using similar samples and methods are unlikely to be attributable to the minimum wage.