Zilber faculty to research health effects of living wage policies

Zilber School of Public Health faculty Mustafa Hussein’s (PI) and Phoenix Do’s  (Co-PI) Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project has been funded. This 2-year and approximately $250k study is titled  “Health at a Living Wage: Evidence from Natural Experiments.”

The goal of this project is to assess the short- and long-term effects of living wage (LW) policies, popular in US urban areas in the mid-1990s and 2000s, on the health and well-being of low-income adults.

The research team will capitalize on invaluable “natural” experiments created by the variations in timing and location of LW policy adoption and implementation across metropolitan areas. They will analyze those variations in two population data sources: the Community Tracking Study across 60 metro areas (1996-2007) and the Coronary Artery Disease Risk in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study, a landmark cohort of ~5,000 young adults recruited in 4 major metro areas in 1986 with regular follow-up since then.

The two data sources allow them to evaluate LW policy effects on measures of material and psychological well-being, biological markers of disease, subjective health status, and health behaviors.

The confluence of diversity in LW policy characteristics, data sources, and analytical methods in this project uniquely creates a potential to generate compelling, actionable evidence on how local economic policy could improve the health and well-being of low-income workers. This evidence will be particularly timely given how municipal policy reforms (e.g. city-wide minimum wage) are gaining significant traction across cities as a means to improve equity in living and working conditions for their populations.

By analyzing the specific health impacts driven by particular design and implementation elements of LW policies, this work will also demonstrate the feasibility of placing health as a front-and-center objective, and not a post hoc consideration, for social and economic policy.

The project team includes:

Mustafa Hussein, Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor, Zilber
Phoenix Do, Co-I, Associate Professor, Zilber
Scott Adams, Co-I, Professor and Chair, UWM Economics
Kiarri Kershaw, Co-I, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Ana Diez Roux, Co-I, Professor and Dean, Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health
James Shikany, Co-I, Professor and Director, CARDIA Coordinating Center, University of Alabama Birmingham