Wages Up, Suicide Down?


In accordance with the passage of Proposition 206 in 2016, on January 1, 2020, Arizona increased its minimum wage to $12.  For 2021 and beyond, Arizona will raise its wages based on the cost of living.

We know there are benefits to raising the minimum wage. These include reducing income inequality, making it easier for workers to afford life’s necessities, including rent and food, and stimulating the economy because it follows that when people earn more, they have more to spend.

Now we can add one benefit to the list: minimum wage increases might contribute to a lower suicide rate.

A new study released this week and reported in the Washington Post demonstrates a correlation between an increase in the minimum wage and declining suicide rates among adults who are between 18 and 64 years old. The study, conducted by Emory University researchers and published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found that state-level increases of $1 in minimum wage corresponded with a 3.4 percent to 5.9 percent decrease in the suicide rates of people with a high school diploma or less in that age group.

That’s important, because in the past three years, life expectancy in the U.S. has declined for three years in a row, a combined result of drug overdoses, alcoholism, and suicide – the suicide rate in the U.S. is the highest it has been since 1938. And it is promising news because in the past two weeks alone, some 20 states have raised their minimum wage.

“Our findings are consistent with the notion that policies designed to improve the livelihoods of individuals with less education, who are more likely to work at lower wages and at higher risk for adverse mental health outcomes, can reduce the suicide risk,” the researchers wrote.

The Emery University study is not the first of its kind. Last year, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley released a report that found a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage reduced suicides by 3.6 percent among adults who have a high school diploma or less. That report received widespread media attention.

“We’ve known for a long time that economic distress affects people’s well-being,” said John Kaufman, a doctoral student in epidemiology at Emory and the lead author of the report. “So in our study, we’re just trying to estimate what’s the strength of minimum wage increase.”

Kaufman said the results raised the question of what other significant mental-health outcomes could result from an increased minimum wage. “Suicides are an indicator of the most extreme end of the despair spectrum, so to speak,” he said. “We’d expect to see more effects on more common problems like depressions, attempted suicide, and drug use as well.”

It is certainly welcome news that so many states, counties and cities recently have raised their minimum wage. But it is important to remember that the federal minimum wage is stagnant at $7.25 an hour and has not been raised in more than a decade. Advocates for a higher wage note that a worker earning the federal minimum wage would make $15,080 a year – below the federal poverty level of $16,020 for a family of two.


Thanks to Coalition on Human Needs for this important information

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AZ Tax Credit 2019

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When you donate to WHEAT  (a Qualifying Charitable Organization, QCO Code 20391),  you could receive a dollar for dollar Arizona State Tax Credit of up to $800 for couples, filing jointly, or $400 for individuals.*

Your gift will provide a dollar for dollar return to you and at the same time support WHEAT’s mission to end hunger and poverty at the root while we help those in our community to self-sufficiency.  In 2019, we provided services to over  10,000 families through SNAP application assistance, living-wage work training,  the provision of outfits to women for the workplace and making available a year-round marketplace for fairly-traded, quality items that help the artisans and farmers feed and clothe their families.  Your gift will mean we can do even more to assist the individuals and families we serve.

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“It is an eternal obligation toward the human being not to let him suffer from hunger when one has a chance of coming to his assistance.”
–Simone Weil

Celebrate International Women’s Day – March 8

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are fundamental to ending extreme poverty and promoting resilient, democratic societies. When women play an active role in civil society and politics, governments tend to be more open, responsive and transparent. When women are at the negotiating table, peace agreements are more durable.

Neptune, Bobby (2016, February 18).

Women and girls are poised to be key drivers of progress and growth but they need to be empowered through equal rights and equal opportunities. They need to be prepared for a 21st century economy through connection to finance, digital literacy, science, technology, engineering, agriculture and mathematics.

And they need to be valued as leaders, peace-builders, and breadwinners in their communities and societies.

(2016, February 18). Empowering women and girls. Retrieved from usaid.gov.

WHEAT’s Story

When Jaye applied for WHEAT’s Training & Mentoring Program, she had years of experience working and always had to have more than one job in order to pay the rent, put food on the table for her 3 children and make sure they had clothes to wear to school. Jaye found herself in dire straits when she couldn’t find a second job after being laid off. For the first time, she found herself in line at the Food Bank, getting a food box and applying for SNAP. Jaye is a caring mother and wants the very best for her children, but she knew she needed to get a better job, but was afraid to give up the one she had. Jaye was underemployed. She was an exemplary student, always on time and always lending a hand to others in her class.

She excelled at customer service and relationship building. Her on-the-job experience was at a local non-profit agency, helping to guide clients to the right resources and services. When Jaye graduated from the 10-week program, she had many fruitful interviews. One she thought went particularly well and she was called back twice. She was getting a bit dejected, when finally the call came. SHE WAS HIRED. Jaye is now working behind the counter in a team leader position at a national rental car agency. They are providing her with benefits, something she never had before; a salary for a full-time position AND opportunities for growth in the company and advancement! Jaye has been employed and out of the program for 1-year and is now coming back to share her story as a presenter at WHEAT’s networking sessions for new participants.



“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt