Mapping the Difference Between Minimum Wage and Cost of Living
Tanvi Misra Sep 10, 2015
There’s no county in America where a minimum wage earner can support a family. The minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $8.54 per hour, after adjusting for inflation. The current $7.25 is far too low for the 3 million hourly workers who earn at or below that threshold, and certainly not at par with the wage hikes instituted by other countries with similar economic trajectories.
Here’s The Economist on America’s embarrassingly low minimum wage:
Given the pattern across the rest of the OECD, a group of mostly rich countries, one would expect America, where GDP per person is $53,000, to pay a minimum wage around $12 an hour. That would mean a raise of about 65% for Americans earning the minimum pay rate.
But while several states have higher local minimums (and some cities plan to raise them further), the U.S. as a whole is not where it needs to be. To visualize the problem, MIT has released a new tool called the Living Wage Calculator, which maps the difference between minimum wage and basic costs of living in cities and counties across America. The map shows that for most minimum wage earners, supporting their families is an enormous struggle.
To work the tool, you can choose three types of households: a parent with a spouse and two children, a single parent with one child, or a single adult. Once selected, the tool maps the difference between living wage (the cost of living required to get by) and minimum wage for this household. The darker red the county or city, the greater the difference.
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