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

City of Dallas contracts more expensive, but better workers are sticking around thanks to living wage.

Written by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier on 03/19/2017

With a year of experience, the city of Dallas, Texas released the results of the first year of the city’s living wage program. Approved in late 2015, the Dallas City Council established a minimum wage rate for city contract employees of $10.37/hour. This increase exceeds the current nation minimum by 3 dollars ( $7.25). While the cost of living differential among cities is difficult to estimate, in Dallas utilities, healthcare, and child care costs surpass the national average. The increase in the contract starting wage (the stated living wage) has had a significant impact on residents of the city: 92% of contract employees indicated they live in the city; 95% of the sanitation workers reported they lived in the city. Where benefits are clearly evident is in improved attendance of employees and improved morale. Lower turnover enabled the city to hire 18 temporary workers into full-time jobs. Leaders in the city acknowledged that wages had been stagnant for a long time. By increasi...

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Four States Pass Minimum Wage Initiatives

Written by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier on 11/11/2016

In Tuesday’s election, four states passed ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage. By 2020 minimum wage rates will rise to $12.00/hour in Arizona, Colorado, and Maine. Washington state's minimum wage will increase to $13.50, also by 2020. Initiatives in Arizona and Colorado also require businesses to provide employees with paid sick leave.

More broadly, in 2016 fourteen states raised their minimum wage. These include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, New York, Rhode Island and West Virginia. California's wage rate will increase to $15.00/hour by 2022 and applies to the entire state including non-metropolitan areas.

California's law includes differentiated rates by size of firm. An increase in the wage rate goes into effect in 2022 for employers with 26 or more employees . Smaller employers will see a comparable wage rate increase in 2023. The policy can be paused should economic conditions warrant such an action. The rate will be indexed the year following initial...

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New Data: Calculating the Living Wage for U.S. States, Counties and Metro Areas

Written by Carey Nadeau, OpenDataNation Inc. on 08/19/2016

Checked for accuracy on 8/17/2016; Numerical values are consistent with living wage 2015 estimates published on 8/15/2016.

While the minimum wage sets an earnings threshold under which our society is not willing to let families slip, it fails to approximate the basic expenses of families in 2015. Consequently, many working adults must seek public assistance and/or hold multiple jobs in order to afford to feed, clothe, house, and provide medical care for themselves and their families.

Establishing a living wage, an approximate income needed to meet a family’s basic needs, would enable 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.
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