The States Where $15 Isn’t A Living Wage

Dylan Petrohilos

Dylan Petrohilos Digital Reporter, Think Progress

Thousands of workers all over the country have walked out, embarked on hunger strikes, and staged sit-ins in restaurants over the past year, all in the pursuit of a $15 minimum wage. The Fight for $15 campaign has garnered headlines and built momentum around the country for raising salaries among low-wage workers. The effort has organized workers in small towns in Arkansas and larger cities such as New York and San Francisco alike. As a result, progressive strongholds have implemented higher minimum wages. But federal minimum wage still remains at an impossibly low $7.25 per hour.

Despite these efforts, a new report from The Alliance For A Just Society argues that $15 may still fall short of a living wage. The report defines a living wage as “…one that allows families to meet their basic needs, without public assistance, and that provides them some ability to deal with emergencies and plan ahead. It is not a poverty or survival wage.”

The cost of living calculation they use has some cushion to it; while the MIT Living Wage Calculator assumes that a studio apartment is the most basic housing requirement for a single adult, the report starts with a one-bedroom. When current data was unavailable, the closest year was used and adjusted based on inflation.

Here are the places where $15 is not enough for a living wage:

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

Here’s how much you’d actually need:

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

Though $15 may sound high, the minimum wage would be at $22.62 if it had kept up with the income gains of the top one percent. Raising the minimum wage to $22 would increase the price of a Big Mac by about a dollar.

While the Fight for $15 has fought the economic model built on low wages, there is still a ways to go before achieving truly fair wages. As Jacobin Magazine points out, “fast-food wages are some of the lowest in the entire job market, and significantly raising them would likely lead to a major restructuring of the wage floor across the entire nation.”


This has been reposted from Think Progress.

Dylan Petrohilos is a Digital Reporter for ThinkProgress at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, he worked with Energy Action Coalition as an online organizer and PC Creative Group as a web developer. During his time at Energy Action Coalition, he created graphics for the organization’s thousands of youth leaders and helped develop a social media strategy for Power Shift 2013. At PC Creative Group, Petrohilos’ main responsibilities included creating custom WordPress themes for local nonprofits, community groups, and politicians. Petrohilos studied communication graphics at Frederick Community College, where he won the 2011 Blue Ridge AIG design challenge.