Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a living wage?
A living wage is what one full-time worker must earn on an hourly basis to help cover the cost of their family’s minimum basic needs where they live while still being self-sufficient.
What typical expenses are included in the Living Wage Calculator’s estimates?
The Living Wage Calculator’s estimate of living wage includes eight typical expenses or basic needs – childcare, civic engagement, food, health care, housing, internet and mobile, transportation, and other necessities. In addition to these basic needs, the Calculator also accounts for the additional cost to families associated with income and payroll taxes.
What geographies is data available for?
The Living Wage Calculator currently publishes estimates for Counties, Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), and States in the United States.
How many family types are available?
Currently, there are 12 different family types available, which vary by the number of working adults and children.
How often is the data updated?
The living wage, typical expenses, poverty wage, minimum wage, and typical annual salaries by occupation estimates are updated annually – by the end of the first quarter of the year – using the best available data as of December 31 of the previous year. Since states and municipalities change their minimum wages on an irregular and inconsistent basis, these values may be further adjusted over the course of the year to reflect the latest minimum wage statutes and ordinances.
When was the data updated?
The data was last updated on February 14, 2024.
Can I scrape the living wage data?
This tool was developed to help individuals, communities, employers, and other users understand the local wage rate that allows residents to meet minimum standards of living. If you plan on using a few counties worth of data, you may use it directly off the web, citing it appropriately. If you want to use data for more than a few counties at once, please do not scrape, extract, or export the data available on the site. Please instead submit a Living Wage Data Request, and a member of the Living Wage Institute will follow up with you.
How can I get a copy of the data in tabular (spreadsheet) format?
Do not scrape, extract, or export the data on the Living Wage Calculator website. If you are interested in using the data, please submit a Living Wage Data Request.
Where can I learn more about the methodology for calculating a living wage?
Please visit the Methodology page for a brief explainer on the living wage and how it is calculated. To learn even more about the data’s methodology, please read the technical documentation produced by the Living Wage Institute or submit a question through the Contact page.
Where does the cost data for typical expenses come from?
The living wage estimates made available through the Living Wage Calculator leverage publicly available, geographically specific expenditure data to estimate the costs associated with each basic need. Please see the table on the Methodology page for a full list of sources.
Where are the typical annual salary numbers sourced from?
The typical annual salary information is sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) dataset. The OEWS data provides employment and annual wage estimates for each North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry code and its underlying occupation. The tool uses the annual mean wage data for the major occupational groups at the State, National, and – where available – Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) levels as a comparative reference for the living wage estimates.
Do the living wage estimates account for state or local income taxes?
The model accounts for state income taxes but not local taxes. The cost of income and payroll taxes to families is calculated using the National Bureau of Economic Research’s TAXSIM, a microsimulation model of the U.S. federal and state income tax system. Find additional details about which taxes are included in the living wage estimates on the Methodology page.
Do the living wage estimates include a reasonable amount of savings and leisure expenditures or go beyond a subsistence wage?
No, the living wage model currently does not factor in savings, leisure expenditures, emergency expenses, or other cost categories beyond basic needs.
This Year’s versus Last Year’s Data
What are the biggest differences between this year’s and last year’s data?
The living wage estimates are not comparable to the previous year’s estimates. To learn more about the differences between this year’s data and the previous year’s, please visit the Methodology page.
Can I compare the data year-over-year?
We do not recommend comparing the living wage data year-over-year. Due to variations in the data collection process and changes in underlying source data or methodologies, the typical expenses that underpin the living wage calculation may not be comparable.
How should I cite a page from the Living Wage Calculator?
The page should be cited as Amy K. Glasmeier, “Living Wage Calculator,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2024. Accessed on [Insert Date Accessed], https://livingwage.mit.edu/[Insert Geography]/[Insert Code]. For example, if you wanted to cite Autauga County, Alabama, you would use the following citation: Amy K. Glasmeier, “Living Wage Calculator,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2024. Accessed on February 14, 2024 from https://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/01001.