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The Effect of the Minimum Wage on Employer-Sponsored Insurance for Low-Income Workers and Dependents

Michael S. Dworsky, Christine Eibner, Xiaoyu Nie and Jeffrey B. Wenger

American Journal of Health Economics, 2022, vol. 8, issue 1, 99 - 126

Abstract: Economic theory suggests that a binding minimum wage increase may reduce the generosity of employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) or other fringe benefits, yet previous empirical studies reach conflicting conclusions about the existence of a trade-off between minimum wages and ESI. We study whether recent state and federal minimum wage increases affect the level or the source of health insurance coverage for low-income families using the 2005–16 Current Population Survey. Our research design uses state and year fixed effects to isolate within-state minimum wage changes while controlling for Medicaid eligibility and other changes in health policy related to implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Because dependent coverage might also be affected by minimum wage hikes, we examine ESI coverage for both low-wage workers and their dependents. We find robust evidence that minimum wage increases lead to reductions in ESI coverage in families below 300 percent of the federal poverty level, with a nominal $1 increase in the minimum wage reducing the probability of ESI coverage by 0.99 percentage points. Reductions in coverage were observed both for workers and for their dependents.

Date: 2022
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