Wage theft and life expectancy inequities in the United States: A simulation study

By Jerzy Eisenberg-Guyot, Katherine M. Keyes, Seth J. Prins, Sarah McKetta, Stephen J. Mooney, Lisa M. Bates, Melanie M. Wall, Jonathan M. Platt in Class conflict and public health

April 1, 2022


April 1, 2022


12:00 AM


Wage theft – employers not paying workers their legally entitled wages and benefits – costs workers billions of dollars annually. We tested whether preventing wage theft could increase U.S. life expectancy and decrease inequities therein. We obtained nationally representative estimates of the 2001–2014 association between income and expected age at death for 40-year-olds (40 plus life expectancy at age 40) compiled from tax and Social Security Administration records, and estimates of the burden of wage theft from several sources, including estimates regarding minimum-wage violations (not paying workers the minimum wage) developed from Current Population Survey data. After modeling the relationship between income and expected age at death, we simulated the effects of scenarios preventing wage theft on mean expected age at death, assuming a causal effect of income on expected age at death. We simulated several scenarios, including one using data suggesting minimum-wage violations constituted 38% of all wage theft and caused 58% of affected workers' losses. Among women in the lowest income decile, mean expected age at death was 0.17 years longer in the counterfactual scenario than observed (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.11–0.22), corresponding to 528,685 (95% CI: 346,018-711,353) years extended in the total 2001–2014 age-40 population. Among men in the lowest decile, the estimates were 0.12 (95% CI: 0.07–0.17) and 380,502 (95% CI: 229,630-531,374). Moreover, among women, mean expected age at death in the counterfactual scenario increased 0.16 (95% CI: 0.06–0.27) years more among the lowest decile than among the highest decile; among men, the estimate was 0.12 (95% CI: 0.03–0.21).

Posted on:
April 1, 2022
2 minute read, 254 words
Class conflict and public health
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