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Study: Higher Minimum Wage Lowers Child Abuse

Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - The states of Oregon and Maryland and the cities of Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., all have implemented minimum-wage hikes this summer, and one study shows a positive side effect they might not have anticipated.

According to the study, a minimum-wage bump of just $1 an hour could reduce the number of child-neglect cases by nearly 10 percent.

Lindsey Rose Bullinger, a Ph.D. candidate at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and a colleague from the University of Connecticut found it also would also reduce the number of physical-abuse cases. The research found that 30 states with wages higher than the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum had substantially fewer child-neglect cases.

Bullinger said the connection is clear: Money is a big source of stress for parents struggling to put food on the table. "These sorts of pressures, that maybe they are not able to keep up on a day-to-day basis," she said. "And so, having just a little bit more income, even if it's only $30 a month, can really go a long way for a household with children."

The research, based on nine years of reports from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, tracked changes in the number of reports to child protective service agencies based on increases in the minimum wage. Bullinger said many studies have looked at the impact of a minimum-wage hike on the economy, but few have dug deeper into how it could affect public health. "I think we can all agree that child abuse and neglect is bad for children, it's bad for society," she said. "And so we hope that this research brings a unique perspective to the debate in a way that is much less divisive than, historically, the debate has been."

The research did show that changes in the minimum wage had little impact on reports of neglect of teenagers, and there were no variations based on a child's race. The study is online at sciencedirect.com.

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