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Sep
2015
16

MIT’s New “Living Wage Map” Reveals the Impossibility of Making It In the U.S. Today

Living Wage map comp2

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An interesting new Living Wage Map, developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Amy Glasmeier, looks into the gap between the minimum wage and the amount of money needed (on both a county-by-county and city-by-city basis) to meet minimum standards of living.  The calculator looks at 12 household types and uses typical household expenses such as food, child care, medical, housing, transportation, annual taxes and required annual income to estimate its living wages.  The calculator is customizable with a line for unnamed expenses.  The results show just how insufficient the current minimum wage is.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 3 million workers currently earn hourly wages below or at the minimum wage.  Over half, or 1.7 million workers, actually earn below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.  

Though living wages are clearly not a game, you can play with the map here.

A good look at the map’s value comes from Lancasteronline, which used the map to extract numbers for both the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and for Lancaster County:

The living wage for an adult with one child in Pennsylvania is $21.79, according to MIT’s living wage calculator. Based on the state’s minimum wage of $7.25, there is a gap of $14.54.

For two adults with two children in Pennsylvania, the living wage was calculated to be $22.49, which results in a gap of $15.24. The figure is based on one of the adults working.

The living wage for a single adult in the Keystone State is $10.40, according to the calculator, which means there is a gap of $3.15.

They proceed to provide a more localized look at the living wage gap in Lancaster County:

In Lancaster County, the living wage for an adult with one child  is $21.82, according to the living wage calculator, which results in a gap of $14.57.

For two adults with two children in the county, the living wage was calculated to be $22.53, which results in a gap of $15.28.

The living wage for a single adult in Lancaster County is $10.38, according to the calculator, which means there is a gap of $3.13.

The Living Wage Map also provides the following explanation of how various regions of the country differ due to the specifics of that region:

Variations in the gap between living wage and minimum wage occur for a variety of reasons. A city with a relatively high minimum wage, for instance, may still show a large gap due to a high cost of living. Conversely, living expenses tend to be lower in rural areas, making even a relatively low minimum wage come closer to meeting basic household needs.

Where do your city, county, and state rank on the Living Wage Map?

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