Study shows higher wages, EITC expansion would take bite out of crime 

Research says making it easier for workers to get by isn't the only reason to increase wages. It would also work to fight crime.  - THE ALL-NITE IMAGES/FLICKR
  • Research says making it easier for workers to get by isn't the only reason to increase wages. It would also work to fight crime.
  • The All-Nite Images/Flickr
By Veronica Carter

Over the weekend, workers calling for a $15 hourly minimum wage held a national march and rally in Virginia - and research is showing a higher wage could have benefits that reach far beyond families' monthly budgets.

The idea that increasing the minimum wage can reduce crime is getting bipartisan support.

A report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors finds raising the federal minimum wage would lead to reductions in crime.

Rebecca Vallas, managing director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress, says expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to include adults without dependents could cut crime rates even further.

"Policies that raise wages, whether raising the minimum wage or expanding the EITC - ideally both, because those two policies go hand in hand - can both prevent recidivism and lower the rate of first-time offenses," she points out.

Indiana's minimum wage is the same as the federal rate, $7.25 an hour, and has not gone up in over seven years.

The Center for American Progress says an estimated 70 million to 100 million Americans have criminal records, and nearly half of all children have a parent with a criminal record.

Vallas says it's simple math - if people make enough to make ends meet, they're less likely to take desperate measures that land them in jail, with lifelong consequences.

"That really means that now, research shows that a comprehensive criminal justice reform agenda must not only include addressing barriers to employment for workers with criminal records, it should also include policies to ensure that jobs pay a fair, living wage," she states.

Vallas adds in states where the minimum wage is $7.25, one in every 102 adults was in jail or prison in 2013, compared to one in 137 in higher-wage states.

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