The relationship between increased economic mobility and better health

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Why should I care?

Poverty and poor health go hand-in-hand. You could fill a textbook with the number of scientific studies that underscore this point. Consider this very brief snapshot:

If we want to close the nation’s health gap, we must also close the income gap. Fortunately, there are a variety of policy solutions:

  • Raise the minimum wage for U.S. workers and families. If Congress raised the minimum hourly wage to $10.10, 25 million U.S. workers would benefit and 5 million to 6 million Americans would be lifted out of poverty.1 By earning a livable wage, these Americans could afford better health care, healthier food options and safer living conditions for their families.
  • Protect and strengthen safety net programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that help millions of American families meet their most basic needs. Social issues like poverty, education and housing are closely intertwined with access to health care and have a direct effect on people’s health, opportunity and productivity. However, the U.S. spends less on social safety net programs than other countries — all of which experience longer life expectancies than us.2 Strong social support programs level the playing field and allow all children a real opportunity to reach the social, educational and economic milestones that often result in longer, healthier lives.

What can I do?

Tell Congress to support paid sick leave and family leave for all workers. Not allowing workers to take time off when they’re sick can have serious consequences for public health, including the unnecessary spread of disease. Workers without paid sick leave are faced with a difficult decision every time they or a loved one are sick — stay home to recover or take care of a sick child or go to work to avoid losing critical income? Forty-three million U.S. workers in the private sector do not have any form of paid sick leave, forcing them to compromise their health and the health of their communities. 

Take action here if you agree that it’s time to move forward with a national law to ensure all working people in the U.S. can earn paid sick days. The Healthy Families Act would give workers more flexibility in taking care of themselves and their families!


1 Oxfam America, Working Poor in America

2 The Commonwealth Fund: Issues in International Health Policy