What Does a Livable Minimum Wage Look Like in the US?


Livable minimum wage (often referred to as living wage) is defined as the sufficient amount of money that covers the basic costs of living. In other words, a family that earns a livable minimum wage doesn’t require the assistance of the government or poverty programs to live.

A living minimum wage is always linked with the cost of living, of course. Therefore, living minimum wages vary depending on the location of the earner. For instance, Louisiana has a significantly less living minimum wage than Washington DC. In contrary to Federal Poverty line, living wage determines various aspects to calculate the realistic cost of living in a given geographic area.

Facts considered when calculating livable minimum wage

  • Housing costs
  • Food expenses
  • Childcare expenditure
  • Healthcare costs
  • Transportation costs
  • Tax payments
  • Other basic necessities

The actual purpose of determining a livable minimum wage is to allow an employee to afford a decent standard of living that fulfills their families’ basic needs. However, there is no single standard definition for the term “needs.” These needs can also vary depending on the geographical location of the respective family unit.

Living wage is different from minimum wage

Many people assume livable minimum wage and minimum wage are same. Moreover, they use these terms interchangeably. However, the truth is that the minimum wage is a specific amount determined by law and may not reflect the actual living minimum wage of a specific region. To determine the living minimum wage, calculations have to be made. It is irresponsible for lawmakers to think that a blanket minimum wage meeting the lowest common denominator of living wages will work across the entire country.

In reality, the minimum wage often falls behind the realistic cost of living. Therefore, a considerable number of workers who earn minimum wage are under the federal poverty line. Another significant percentage of workers live paycheck-to-paycheck.

The minimum wage as it stands is not keeping up with the actual cost of living in the US.

Implementation of a Living Minimum Wage

In general, implementing a living minimum wage is not an easy task. This respective concept can vary greatly depending on the geographical location. Living minimum wages obviously vary from state to state and city to city. However, if the lawmakers want to implement a living wage the right way, they should be prepared to engage in a massive endeavor that includes planning, surveying, etc.

It is doubtful that lawmakers would institute a living minimum wage standard that varies from region to region. But first they must agree that the current minimum wage is hurting families and creating more poverty.