Funded on September 1, 2022

Effective policy solutions to combat the rising rates of poor mental health and substance use disorder are critically needed, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings from early in the pandemic indicate that Black and Hispanic adults disproportionately experienced substantial increases in suicidal ideation, anxiety and depression, and substance abuse relative to white adults. Yet little research has focused on the population health benefit of labor market policies on nonfatal mental health outcomes. And although minimum wages and the earned income tax credit (EITC) have greater income effects on Black and Hispanic workers, few studies have examined whether higher incomes would reduce the racial and ethnic disparities that exist across several of these outcomes, including suicide attempts, poor-mental-health days, and illicit drug abuse and dependence.

Previous research from the hub at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrates that labor market policies such as the minimum wage and the EITC reduce racial income gaps and contribute to significant reductions in suicide. This study will examine whether these policies reduce racial and ethnic disparities in a set of adverse mental health and substance use outcomes that have been increasing in prevalence over the past two decades.