Newest Winner In Minimum Wage Debate? Babies

Sep 1, 2016

Debates over the minimum wage usually come down to economics — whether it helps or hurts workers and businesses. But new research suggests another potential winner: babies.

Economists have long known that people who make more money are generally healthier.

Robert Kaestner is with the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government & Public Affairs. He found that among new mothers with lower education levels, living in an area with a higher minimum wage led to heavier babies — about 11 grams for every dollar — and heavier babies are healthier babies.

“I think a lot of people would think this is a particularly important aspect of life to look at, and since it is positively affected by minimum wage, an important component of the benefits of minimum wage that should be considered," he says.

Kaestner says he hopes the paper he co-authored for the National Bureau of Economic Research, "Effects of the Minimum Wage on Infant Health," can help move the debate beyond its usual focus on employment.

Brian Mackey covers state government for NPR Illinois. You can follow his reporting on Twitter and Facebook. A version of this story was first broadcast on Illinois Edition on September 1, 2016.