San Francisco Living Wage Ordinance

Authors: San Francisco Department of Public Health

Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Completion Date: March 2006

HIA Report: Living Wage Ordinances

Summary of the HIA

Proposed Policy or Project

In 1999, the city of San Francisco proposed a living wage ordinance (LWO) that would create a wage minimum of $11 per hour for firms that provided services to, or lease land from local government. Support for the law was based on the idea that employees who provide services for local government should be paid wages that sufficiently meet the local cost of living.

Background and Policy Context

Historically, LWOs were first adopted in Baltimore, Maryland in 1994. Since that time approximately 30 other cities in the US have taken on such laws including three in California: Los Angeles (1997), San Jose and Oakland (1998). At the time this HIA was conducted, the wage floor mandated by LWOs ranged from $7 - $9 per hour, with a possible $1.25 added per hour in the event that employers do not provide benefits like insurance. At the time, the highest wage floors were in San Jose at $9.50 and $10.75. This HIA estimates the magnitude of the anticipated health improvement associated with the $11 per hour legislation.

Scope and Methods

Published observational models of the relationship of income to health were applied to predict improvements in health outcomes associated with proposed wage increases in San Francisco. Estimates were based on peer-reviewed published studies of income's effect on health. Health outcomes of interest were premature mortality, preventable hospitalizations, and emergency room visits.

Summary of Findings

Adoption of the increased wage was estimated to result in decreases in the risk of premature death by 5% for adults 24-44 years of age in households whose income was around $20,000. For the offspring these workers, a living wage would result in an increase of a quarter of a year of completed education, a 34% increased odds of high school completion, and a 22% decrease in the risk of early childbirth.

Background Reports


Rajiv Bhatia, MD, MPH

1390 Market Street, Ste. 822
San Francisco

(415) 252-3982