Skip to Content
MIT News: 77 Mass Ave

More money, more voting?

Minimum-wage increases lead to higher election participation.

April 27, 2022
ines of voters wrap around the outside of PS198M The Straus School as they wait to cast their ballots
A line of voters waiting to cast their ballots wraps around PS198M The Straus School in New York City.Michael Reaves/Getty Images

A study by MIT political scientists has found that higher minimum wages make people more likely to vote—especially if they are low-wage workers, who are typically underrepresented in elections.

Associate professor Ariel White and doctoral student Zachary Markovich examined the voting records of New York City public employees before and after the city enacted minimum-wage increases in 2014 and 2015. Then they compared the changes in voting among minimum-wage workers with turnout patterns among those unaffected by the raises. “If everybody’s turnout changes from one year to another, we’re accounting for that,” White says. They found that voter turnout increased two to three percentage points among those earning close to the minimum.

Next, they examined county-level data collected across the US from 1980 through 2016. This showed a similar trend in more places over a longer period of time.

One factor helping them tease out an effect is that state minimums vary widely, from $5.15 to $15.20 per hour. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have raised their minimum wages since 2014. That let them compare states that increased their minimum wage to ones that didn’t.

The researchers have hypotheses about why voting increases with minimum wages. “One is the possible material or logistical changes that happen when people make substantially more money [and can] afford stable housing and regular transportation,” White says. “When you have a little more money to live, you have a little more head space to think about going to vote.”

Another possibility: People could be changing their attitude toward government once they learn that government can raise their pay. 

Keep Reading

Most Popular

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.