The economic benefits of a higher minimum wage to individuals and families — and then to the economy through their greater consumption capability — are often discussed (including in your editorial, “Wait for federal wage”). However, we urge the adoption of a higher minimum wage in Louisiana as a contribution to public health. “Upstream” social factors such as poverty, low education and inequality are associated with costly negative public health outcomes, including higher rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and premature births. One important pathway in this process involves the impacts of chronic, acute stress. Earning more income helps to lessen the stress of economic precariousness. It helps to incentivize work and promote upward mobility — for both men and women. The low earnings of Louisiana women are an important concern, and an increase in the minimum wage would promote gender equality, as well as economic security. A higher minimum wage in Louisiana can be an important contribution to improving quality of life and health outcomes — and to lessening medical costs in this state. We hope Louisiana’s elected officials will enact a minimum wage of $10.10 (with an annual cost-of-living adjustment) for both the economic benefits others have cited and also for much-needed improved health outcomes in our state.
Mary Amelia Women’s Center, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine