The AMA is adopting a new policy linking wage poverty to poor health

CHICAGO – With one in 10 people in poverty living in the United States and many working people unable to afford the basic things they need to stay healthy, the American Medical Association (AMA) today adopted a policy during its annual meeting of its House of Delegates, reaffirming that poverty is detrimental to health and advocating for federal, state and local minimum wage policies, which include plans to adjust wage levels in the future to be in line with inflation.

The AMA also reaffirmed that minimum wage policies must be in line with the AMA’s principle that the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right and that optimizing the social determinants of health is an ethical obligation of civil society.

“Simply put, reducing poverty improves health,” said AMA trustee David H. Eisus, MD. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created a simultaneous public health and economic crisis that has revealed and exacerbated access to care and other social inequalities. Not only has the pandemic affected disproportionately minority and marginalized communities, but economic insecurity, housing insecurity and food insecurity have disproportionately burdened people of color and other historically marginalized communities. Too many people work full time – sometimes more than one job – and are unable to rise above the wages of poverty. That needs to change. “

The current federal minimum wage of $ 7.25 per hour is equivalent to an annual salary of $ 15,080 if you work 40 hours a week for all 52 weeks of the year. Workers who seek to support a family on the federal minimum wage are eligible for federal poverty assistance. At present, full-time work at the federal minimum wage is insufficient for a parent to support even one child above the federal poverty line, but in 1968 the federal minimum wage was enough to support a family of three out of poverty. In addition, the declining value of the minimum wage has been found to be the main driver of growing inequality between low- and middle-wage workers since the late 1970s. In contrast, the federal minimum wage of $ 15 an hour is projected to increase family income for 14.4 million children, or nearly one-fifth of all children in the United States.

Poverty exacerbates health inequalities as women and people of racial and ethnic groups are more likely to earn low wages. Blacks and Spaniards and families are disproportionately represented among low-wage workers. In addition, studies have found that populations with high and growing income inequalities are associated with lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality rates, obesity, mental illness, homicide and other measures compared to more equitable populations. of income. Much research on wages, incomes and health has found that policy interventions aimed at increasing the incomes of low-income people will improve both economic measures (increasing income equality and economic security) and health measures (more low mortality rates, improving the general health status of the population, reducing health inequalities and lower overall health costs).

Approximately 88 percent of the minimum wage in the United States is over 20, with an average age of 35.7. Based on data for 2019, approximately 48% of people who earn at or below the federal minimum wage have some kind of higher education, nearly 67% are women and approximately 45% work full-time. Most workers are in the nutrition profession (55 percent), and many others work in sales and related professions (8.5 percent) or personal care and services (6.6 percent). Approximately 28 percent of low-wage workers have children, which puts many children at risk of living in poverty. Researchers have estimated that there will be 2,790 low birth weight births a year and 518 fewer after neonatal deaths if all states raise the minimum wage by one dollar.

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