Workers & Economic Inequality

Graph: Where Can You Live on Minimum Wage?

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on June 3, 2012

Via the New York TimesAndrew Rosenthal, I see the National Low Income Housing Coalition has a new report showing that there is no longer any state in the country where a full-time minimum-wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent. With the federal minimum wage currently stuck at $7.25 an hour, even Arkansas and West Virginia, the two most affordable states, require a 63-hour workweek.

As Rosenthal notes, the report's authors define "affordable" as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of income, a percentage that has provoked some pushback from commentators despite being a widely accepted standard of affordability. And the NLIHC's own graphic, which has been getting plenty of web traffic this week, highlights the number of hours required for a two-bedroom apartment—perhaps too generous for someone just scraping by.

But you can play around with the data in the original report, and guess what? A single-bedroom apartment in bargain-basement South Dakota still requires a 50-hour workweek at minimum wage, while an average-affordability state like Texas takes 72 hours. And you can forget about living in New York, where the same apartment will cost 120 minimum-wage hours, or the equivalent of three full-time jobs. That's an extraordinary change from 1968, when an inflation-adjusted minimum wage of $10.58 made 36 out of 50 states affordable for a person working 40 hours a week.

Above is our own illustration of the NLIHC data, showing how many hours at minimum wage Americans must work to rent a one-bedroom apartment in each of the fifty states today.

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