In many American communities, families working in low-wage jobs make insufficient income to live locally given the local cost of living.

Recently, in a number of high-cost communities, community organizers and citizens have successfully argued that the prevailing wage offered by the public sector and key businesses should reflect a wage rate required to meet minimum standards of living.

Therefore we have developed a living wage calculator to estimate the cost of living in your community or region. The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location.

Recent Articles

Who Uses the Living Wage Tool and Why?

Written by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier on 09/22/2017

People often ask me, “who uses the living wage tool.” My answer mostly reflects the moment. I get several user emails a day. The stories and queries range from “Your calculator has no idea how expensive it is to live in Seattle, I don’t care what the new minimum wage is.” To a single mom who thanks the tool for being there, but then finishes her missive by reciting the current challenge which often is about rent or a problem with the family car, or the difficulty of finding inexpensive child care.

Another storyline arises from a conversation I frequently have with employers who see paying a living wage as a moral issue. Enter Aaron, living in Washington D.C.; a former World Bank employee turned home-cleaning service entrepreneur. Aaron stepped away from international development to pursue as he says, “an experiment.” Well-Paid Maids is a living wage-paying home cleaning service. Using his observation of self and others, he pondered "who would pay a living wage to have their re...

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Living Wage Rate Tied to the Cost of Housing and Child Care

Written by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier on 06/14/2017

Living wages include several cost factors; the two most important are housing and child care expenses . The Living Wage Calculator uses the county level Fair Market Rent (FMR) rate produced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of its calculus. Using the same indicator (FMR), new research by The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) reinforces the findings of the living wage tool: the cost of living in the overwhelming majority of the nation's counties exceeds significantly a full-time income earned based on the minimum wage ( As the NLIHC research shows, rent alone for a two bedroom apartment requires a wage rate that is more than $21.00 an hour. As the study indicates, this level of income is 2.9 times higher than the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Our computation of the living wage parallels these findings adding weight to the underlying fact; it is almost impossible to make it in America today based on incomes earned at the ...

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Results from the 2016 Data Update

Written by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and Carey Anne Nadeau, on 04/13/2017

Establishing a living wage, an approximate income needed to meet a family’s basic needs, would enables the working poor to achieve financial independence while maintaining housing and food security. When coupled with lowered expenses, for childcare and housing in particular, the living wage might also free up resources for savings, investment, and/or for the purchase of capital assets (e.g. provisions for retirement or home purchases) that build wealth and ensure long-term financial security.

The 2016 analysis of the living wage, compiling geographically specific expenditure data for food, childcare, health care, housing, transportation, and other basic necessities, finds that:
The living wage in the United States is $15.84 per hour, before taxes for a family of four (two working adults, two children), compared to $15.12 in 2015.

The minimum wage does not provide a living wage for most American families. A typical family of four (two working adults, two children) needs to...

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