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In Every State, Minimum Wage Falls Far Short of a Living Wage

“In urban and rural states across the country, the living wage is consistently far higher than the minimum wage, and higher than most people would guess.”

WASHINGTON - Workers in some cities and states will be getting a raise next week as annual minimum wage increases go into effect around the country. In states and cities that have passed significant minimum wage increases, some workers will see raises of $1 an hour or more as minimum wages are phased in to $12, $13 or $15 an hour.

According to Waiting for the Payoff, research by People's Action Institute,  a living wage for a single adult – a wage that actually allows workers to make ends meet – is $17.28 per hour nationally.

Yet, in many states, come January 1, minimum wage workers will receive just a nickel or dime more per hour. And in the states that pay workers the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, there will be no raises – again. The federal minimum wage hasn’t changed since 2009.

In every state, according to research by People’s Action Institute, the minimum wage falls far short of an actual living wage. In Alabama, the  $7.25 minimum wage is 47 percent of the $15.49 needed to make ends meet there. In California, the $10 minimum wage is about half of the $19.90 it takes for a single adult there to get by.


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This table from the report compares the minimum wage in 50 states and D.C. to the living wage for that state.

“A $15 minimum wage is a modest demand,” said Allyson Fredericksen, deputy director of research and author of the report. “In urban and rural states across the country, the living wage is consistently far higher than the minimum wage, and higher than most people would guess.”

People’s Action institute released Waiting for the Payoff: How Low Wages and Student Debt Keep Prosperity Out of Reach in October. The report calculates how much a single, full-time worker must be paid hourly to make ends meet. There is also a second calculation, adding in monthly student loan payments, to determine how much a worker with student debt needs to be paid to get by.

The Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series has been produced since 1999.


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