Are minimum wage policies likely to affect the food purchases of low-wage workers?

A new study from the University of Washington School of Public Health explores how workers in low-wage jobs connect food and diet to perceptions of health and well-being, and whether a wage increase might influence how they acquire food or the types of food they might purchase.

Although many low-wage workers would like to use additional income to purchase higher quality foods or increase food-related leisure activities, they often perceive trade-offs with other food acquisition resources, such as decreases in food assistance benefits,  that prevent noticeable differences in food-spending patterns.

“This analysis could support policymakers and employers in addressing food insecurity because it highlights some of the constraints that workers in low-wage jobs face when making decisions about food,” says Lindsay Beck, lead author of the study and a master of public health student in nutritional sciences.

The study, which utilizes data gathered over three years during the policy phase-in period of the Seattle minimum wage policy (2015-2017), suggests more future research is needed to examine food choices and diet-related health outcomes in response to changes in wages or income.

Co-authors on the study from the UW School of Public Health include: Lindsay Beck, lead author and an MPH student in nutritional sciences in combination with the Graduate Coordinated Program in Dietetics (GCPD); Emilee Quinn, a research coordinator from the UW Center for Public Health Nutrition; Jessica Wolf, an MPH student in nutritional sciences and GCPD; James Buszkiewicz, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology; Jennifer Otten, senior author and an associate professor in environmental and occupational health sciences and core faculty member in the Nutritional Sciences Program;

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