Boston Living Wage Ordinance

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Health Impact Project

The Boston Public Health Commission conducted an HIA to inform upcoming decisions by the mayor and City Council on proposed changes to the Boston Living Wage Ordinance. The law, first passed in 1998, was designed to ensure that employees of city contractors would earn a wage that allows a family of four to live at or above the poverty line.

The HIA analyzed how increasing the living wage from approximately $14 an hour to about $17 an hour could affect income, public and employment benefits, number of hours worked, and housing status, among other considerations, and in turn how these factors affect overall health, the risk for many illnesses, preventable injuries, and child health outcomes.

The HIA concluded that increasing the living wage from $14.11 to $16.96 could improve mental health outcomes, decrease food insecurity and hunger, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, and reduce cases of hypertension, diabetes, and adult asthma. Recommendations included adjusting the living wage as needed to enable savings that can promote longer-term family economic security, expanding the ordinance to cover other employees and contractors, and improving data collection to document successes. Support for this project was provided, in part, by a grant from the de Beaumont Foundation.


This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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