The MIT Living Wage Tool and the 2018 Redesign and Update

Written by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier on 03/29/2018

The MIT living wage tool began life in 2003 as part of a Ford-Foundation sponsored project, reexamining poverty policy in the U.S. Created to provide citizens and policymakers with the ability to estimate the cost of living, the tool's original focus was to make evident conditions in communities undergoing rapid and unexpected economic change. The calculator was built in 2003 at Penn State in the Department of Geography by Tracey Farrigan (economic geographer, currently employed in the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S.D.A. The tool is continuously updated by West Arete, web design and technology tool developer, State College Pennsylvania.

In 2009, the tool migrated to MIT when Amy Glasmeier joined the School of Architecture and Planning's (SAP) Urban Studies and Planning Department (DUSP) where she served as the first female-and first outside head of the department. Today the MIT living wage tool contracts with Carey Anne Nadeau (DUSP alumna) principal of Open Data Nation for technical assistance, advice, and annual data updates. The data analytics company, West Arete provides updates and periodic redesigns of the tool. DUSP serves as the tool's MIT host.

Today's relaunch is the fifth iteration of the tool. There are several sister sites including the Economic Policy Institute's Family Budget Tool and the University of Washington's Self Sufficiency Standard. The objective of these groups is the same, and each has its unique approach to identify the level of income required to support individuals and families in America.

Today, the 2018 living wage tool relaunch reflects two significant innovations. First, we have modernized the look and feel of the tool. Second, we are announcing our partnership program, identifying organizations that advocate for, seek to pay, and support payment of living wages. Our members are companies, communities, and organizations that support and use the tool and advocate for policies and practices to achieve living wages for paid work. At the bottom of the front page are our current partners. Hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals use the tool every day to benchmark their circumstances and to advocate for their citizens, employees, and communities all with the goal of ensuring that a day's work pays a living wage. Our partners consist of West Arete, Open Data, Nation, Avalon Bay Communities, Just Capital, IKEA, LISC, and Patagonia. Future postings will include stories of our existing and future partners, stories from the field and new technical developments.