Advocates claim that raising the minimum wage would lift many families out of poverty and reduce income equality, but a new study contends that a rise in wages would also reduce child maltreatment.
According to a study from Indiana University and University of Connecticut researchers released in the January issue of Children and Youth Services Review, neglect reports involving young children declined by 10.8 percent in response to a $1 increase in the minimum wage.
According to University of California Berkeley economics professor Michael Reich, the study provides more evidence that boosting wages can provide health benefits for low-income families.
“The results complement a number of other recent papers showing that minimum wage increases have beneficial effects on infant and maternal health, adolescent fertility, and other health outcomes,” said Reich, who has studied the impact of minimum wage increases in California.
In looking for a connection between increasing income and child maltreatment rates, authors Kerri Raissian and Lindsey Rose Bullinger studied minimum wage increases in 44 states between 2004 and 2013. Raissian and Rose Bullinger weighed those states’ maltreatment rates against changes in state and federal minimum wages using a mix of data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data (NCANDS) and the U.S. Census. NCANDS is a federal data set that gathers reports of child abuse and neglect from all 50 states.
Neglect is defined by inadequate provision of food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and inadequate home conditions, according to the article.
According to the article, some scholars have long argued that poverty-related issues can manifest themselves through parental psychological well-being, substance abuse, depression and family conflict.
The data are disaggregated by race and ethnicity and by three major age brackets: young children ages 0 to 5, school-aged children ages 6 to 12 and adolescents ages 13 to 18.
The study found that the 30 states that had exceeded the federal minimum wage by a dollar reflected a reduced risk of child welfare involvement. Further, the decline in report rates is greater among school-aged children ages 6 to 12.
The results do not, however, show any significant effects among adolescents or effects on one ethnic group over another.
Bruce Lesley and Cara Baldari of Washington, D.C.-based First Focus said raising the minimum wage should be part of the conversation in addressing child abuse and neglect.
“A reduction in child maltreatment rates through raising the minimum wage would have a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of children who experience maltreatment and would reduce the economic cost to cities and states responsible for providing services to children and families who have experienced abuse and neglect,” Baldari and Lesley wrote in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change.
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