How Raising The Minimum Wage Could Reduce Gun Violence In Chicago

It may be possible to help reduce gun violence in Chicago — a city that saw over 500 homicides last year — in one simple step: Raising the minimum wage.

A new report released by the group Stand Up! Chicago draws a clear connection between violent crime and low wages and economic inequality in the Windy City, and while raising wages alone can’t eliminate the gun violence that haunts the city’s streets, it could certainly help, the group asserts:

Decades of research have demonstrated that there is a statistically significant link between low wages, income inequality and crime. Researchers have found that the majority of increases in violent crime can be explained by downward wage trends, and The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that a twenty percent drop in wages leads to a 12 to 18 percent increase in youth crime.Other analysis shows that a 1 percent point increase in the Gini index (a measure of wealth inequality) produces, on average, a 3.6 percent increase in the homicide rates for a population.[…]

Much of Chicago’s poverty crisis is attributable to the problem of low wages and unemployment. According to a recent report by Women Employed and Action Now, the number of low-wage workers in Chicago, defined as those making $12 per hour or less, increased by nearly 30 percent over the last decade.


According to the report, 89 percent of murders and violent crimes in Chicago were in low-income areas where mostly black and Latino people live — areas where wages are lowest and extreme poverty rates are highest. Overall, the city has income inequality similar to that of El Salvador. That follows the wider national trend that poverty and income inequality results in homicides:

Raising wages won’t just be beneficial to the lives and wallets of Chicago’s poor; it will also help the city overall. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that the financial cost of the gun epidemic — between hospital bills, time spent in courts, people leaving the city, and a range of other factors — costs households about $2,500 each year. The Center for American Progress has calculated the direct costs per capita at $390 in Chicago. And homeowners could benefit from a reduction in gun violence too, since housing prices would rise by billions if fewer people were getting gunned down.