Minneapolis’ minimum wage increase is creating a rare opportunity for researchers to put an age-old theory to the test — that more money tends to beget better health.
A team at the University of Minnesota is recruiting 450 low-wage workers in Minneapolis to monitor their health — and hopefully see progress — as their wages increase over the next five years because of the city’s new minimum wage standards.
“It’s so rare to have precise data on someone’s actual wages and how that changes health outcomes, said Caitlin Caspi, an assistant professor in the university medical school’s family medicine and community health division.
The Minneapolis ordinance requires large employers to gradually increase their minimum wages to $15 per hour by 2022, and small employers to do so by 2024.
University researchers will monitor participants who are working in Minneapolis in a number of ways, including checking their pay stubs to verify wage increases, reviewing their receipts to see whether increased income results in healthier food purchases, and monitoring their height, weight and other indicators of their overall health.
“We’re focusing on these diet and weight related outcomes,” Caspi said, “because there’s good evidence those can be affected” by changes in household income.
Funding for the study is coming from a National Institutes of Health grant program, which is exploring the most effective strategies for reducing obesity — a known risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and other problems. The program, for example, has funded a study to determine whether changes in nutrition labeling influence food purchases.
“This is the first time they’ve looked at something that is really quite upstream” from how people eat and exercise, Caspi said.
While a similar study in Seattle is assessing the affect of wages on the health of child care workers, Caspi said the Minneapolis study is the first in the nation to examine how wages and minimum wage policies influence a broad population of workers. To volunteer, you can call 612-624-7673 for more information.