Study finds states with higher minimum wages have lower STI rates among women

October 9, 2019

Researchers at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health recently found that states with higher minimum wages experienced lower rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) among women in metro areas. The authors’ findings were recently published in PLOS ONE. Umedjon Ibragimov, MPH, PhD, was corresponding author on the paper. Additional Emory authors include Stephanie Beane, MEd, PhD; Kelli Komro, PhD, MPH; Melvin D. Livingston, PhD; and Hannah L.F. Cooper, ScD.

Utilizing data collected between 2003-2015 from 66 U.S. metropolitan areas, the group was the first to explore the link between state-level minimum wage policies and STI rates among women. The researchers employed multivariable hierarchical linear models to test the hypothesis that higher minimum wages would be associated with lower STI rates.

After adjusting state-level minimum wages for inflation and cost of living, the authors found that a $1 increase in the price-adjusted state-level minimum wage over time (between 2002-2014) was associated with a 12.2 percent drop in syphilis rates among women (0.16 fewer cases per 100,000 women of all ages based on 2015 median rates) and with a 7.4 percent drop in gonorrhea rates (or 9.7 fewer cases per 100,000 women) in large U.S. metropolitan areas.

Findings are consistent with other research on minimum wage and health, and suggest that increasing the minimum wage may help lower STI rates among women. If other studies support this finding, the authors recommend future public health strategies aimed at reducing STIs among women should include advocating for a higher minimum wage. The authors note that finding innovative ways to address STIs in the U.S. is particularly important given CDC's 2018 STD Surveillance Report, which showed 2.5 million combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in 2018, a fifth consecutive year of steady increase in STI rates.