Less-educated workers who get a one-dollar bump in minimum wage are less likely to be absent from work, a recent study says
A little extra green could go a long way.
Less-educated workers who get a one-dollar bump in minimum wage are less likely to call out sick from work than those who didn’t, a recent study published in the B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis suggests. A potential reason for this effect, according to the researchers: “higher minimum wages improve self-reported health for lower educated workers,” though the reason for that connection is unclear.
Using data from 1997 to 2013, the co-authors looked at job absence due to illness and self-reported health evaluations among hourly paid workers and spouses aged 25 to 64. They compared people with high school education or less — likelier to be affected by minimum wage — with higher-educated groups.
Among less-educated people, the researchers found, upping the minimum wage was linked to lower absenteeism rates due to workers’ own illness. Indeed, a $1 increase in minimum wage could yield between a 19% to 32% reduction in absenteeism. The study also found that increasing minimum wage boosted workers’ self-reported health.
Absenteeism costs employers around $225.8 billion annually, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the average U.S. worker takes 14 sick days a year. “(O)ur results support raising minimum wages because it can lead to previously unmeasured reductions in job absences and improvements in worker health,” co-author Paul Leigh said in a statement.
“It is uncommon to see minimum-wage-effects research that focuses on difficult-to-measure factors such as worker health, even though a less healthy workforce can be a significant drain on productivity and finances,” Leigh added. “Our study shows that it is possible to do.”
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