You can't live on $7.25 an hour anywhere in America

A new study says even in the cheapest area, it takes at least $10.20 for a US worker to achieve economic stability.

By Jason Notte Jul 19, 2013 10:32AM
Pennies (© Corbis)Even if you live in Hanson County, S.D. -- the county with the lowest cost of living in America -- the $7.25 federal minimum wage won't cover you.

According to a study produced for The Huffington Post by Wider Opportunities for Women, a nonprofit advocacy organization aimed at boosting low-income women and families, even a worker with no children living in Hanson would need to take in $10.20 an hour to be economically stable.

That's almost $3 more than the federal minimum, which is also South Dakota's minimum wage. And $10.20 an hour is getting off lightly, because WOW's researchers found it would take an average minimum wage of $14.17 an hour for workers across the nation to be economically secure. In Montgomery County, Md., the area where the cost of living is highest, a worker needs a minimum wage of $23.65 to achieve the same stability.

That's no small matter, considering that Montgomery County borders Washington, D.C., which is taking on no less than Wal-Mart (WMT) in its battle for a living wage. The D.C. City Council passed a bill earlier this month requiring large retailers in the city to pay their workers at least $12.50 per hour, more than $4 above the city's minimum wage. Wal-Mart has threatened to pull six planned stores in the city if Mayor Vincent Gray signs the bill into law.

WOW's basic premise is that the minimum wage is too low to provide a living wage for most Americans. President Barack Obama agrees and proposed raising it to $9 per hour in his State of the Union address earlier this year. Congress didn't think much of that plan and halted it right out of the gate.

It doesn't help the minimum wage's case when its opponents think it's making minimum-wage workers rich. Billionaire Charles Koch recently released a commercial that suggests an annual income of $34,000 puts a worker among the wealthiest 1% -- in the world. The Economic Policy Institute's Family Budget Calculator counters that a family of three would require an income of $45,000 a year to cover basic needs in Simpson County, Miss., the U.S. region with the lowest cost of living for a family of that size.

That need changes drastically by location and still dwarfs the $30,000 a year two parents working full time would make from the $7.25 minimum wage. In Wichita, Kan., where Think Progress notes Koch's $200,000 commercial campaign has begun, the amount of income needed to cover basic costs jumps to nearly $54,000.

Simply put, $7.25 an hour is a wage, but no one in America is living well on it.

More on moneyNOW

Jul 19, 2013 11:32AM

D's & R's = equally worthless.


If we can drop our labels and name calling for a moment and look at the big picture, we have a couple scenario's as options.


Option 1 - let companies pay their workers a little as they can get away with.  Their employees can't afford to support themselves and need public assistance & social safety nets.  In this scenario we're basically all payment the difference between what the companies pay them and what people need to survive.  Except we're running a huge debt so basically our children are paying to keep Walmart's "low low prices"


Option 2 - require companies to pay a wage that people can actually sustain themselves on.  We all pay a little more for our fast food and the country runs up less debt paying welfare & foodstamps.


Option 3 - let companies pay as little as they can get away with and cut the social safety net in the name of reducing the national debt.  The poor can starve or steal to survive, increasing crime and incarceration which adds to the national debt...



let the thumbs down commence.

Jul 19, 2013 12:23PM
In 1914 Henry Ford raised the pay of his workers from about $2.50 a day to $5 a day while shortening the workday. The world didn't end. The company didn't go broke. He built an industry and destroyd the competition.
Jul 19, 2013 12:20PM

If tghe minimum wage is just for people starting out in  life, how come so many people working at Wall Mart are in their sixties?


Jul 19, 2013 11:18AM
The minimum wage was never intended to be a wage earners means of supporting themselves.  It has always been a starting point for entry workers who will eventually move into more lucrative salary. 
Jul 19, 2013 11:13AM
Raise minimum wage and you raise cost of living in general.  It is revolving door that keeps spinning in circles.  A battle you will never win. . .
Jul 19, 2013 12:37PM

I have 2 college degree's and work in the medical field and I make 10.80 (yes I know that is above minimum wage) and it is not cutting it. I have no children but I do have student loans, house payments, car payments, and I need $$ to eat too. Employers use minimum wage as a starting pay yes, but then they claim they can't afford to give raises so minimum wage is where you stay at for 4 + years all because EMPLOYERS can do that without any problems.

Jul 19, 2013 12:15PM
Raise the minimum wage and you'll get less people qualifying for government subsidies and support.  Paying workers less than living wage is a false economy.  Sure you pay less at the store, but then you pay more in taxes to support the subsistent workers.  The only difference is, is that the CEOs and wealthy owners make out like bandits.
Jul 19, 2013 12:41PM
I suppose you could live comfortably on $7.25 an hour.....if you lived in Guatemala. But the commute would be murder.
Jul 19, 2013 12:10PM

It is not just Romney,  The billionaire Koch brothers are out of touch how the rest of the people live!  


If $34K puts you in the top 1% of the world, where does multi billions put the Koch brothers?  In the top 0.001%?  Maybe the Koch brothers can come out of their castle and see how people are living on $7.25/hour. 

Jul 19, 2013 12:51PM
Kick to the nuts of the low lever workers:
All low level jobs at small family owned business I've worked at for years during college paid more than min wage. It's those large billion $ companies I worked for that paid min wage. 

Another kick to the nuts of the low lever workers:
The CEOs that pay min wage expect tax $ to cover the rest of the cost of living for those min wage workers. Look at what Walmart does - they help people file for welfare, rent assistance, food stamps, free healthcare, and who-knows-what-else. AND just recently McDonald's came out with a financial plan for their min wage workers that pointed to some mysterious $20/mo health insurance plan and THAT DIDN"T INCLUDE $ FOR GROCERIES OR GAS!

The CEOs want it all I guess. Screw the little guy. Why should the little guys earn a LIVABLE WAGE when the CEO needs a new Ferrari! 

Another kick to the nuts of the low level workers:
Some years ago, American Airlines forced all their workers to take like 20% pay cuts because the company was having "financial difficult". When the cuts were implemented, the executives were then given bonuses, in secret, that surpassed the $ saved by worker pay cuts. They took from thousands of workers and gave to the 50 or so executives.

Another kick to the nuts of the low level workers:
Some yrs ago there was a janitor strike at the Univ of Calif system. The 1000 or so janitors wanted 5% raises that would have amounted to a few million $/yr more for the UC system. The 20 or so in the administration rejected it saying they couldn't afford it. The admin then gave themselves something like 15% raises that, combined, far surpassed the total $ amount the janitors requested. So much for affordability.

Jul 19, 2013 1:07PM
If Walmart is a burden to society than they should pull out close down and go away they are a multi billion dollar business there is no need for government to subsidize their workers.
Jul 19, 2013 11:32AM
I say raise you foot from the poor mans neck, let him live with some dignity, without forcing him to work AND live off government handouts that subsides his employer's cost of doing business by paying him a wage he can't live on.
Jul 19, 2013 1:54PM

Let's try tax breaks for companies that sell American products and hire American workers. Then tax the sh!t out of every company that sends the jobs to India, El Salvador, etc.

I am so damned tired of everything I pick up and read the label on saying "Made in phucking China".

Jul 19, 2013 12:47PM
The article said that it takes $23.65 per hour to achieve stability in Montgomery County MD. The workers need to provide at least that much value to their employers. Getting paid $23.65 to mop the floor won't cut it.
Jul 19, 2013 11:54AM

I am not aware that the minimum wage was ever a "living" wage. It is a starting point.  I started work on a minimum wage of 95 cents an hour and WORKED MY WAY UP to a living wage. I paid attention to the job, learned it well, looked for advancement possibilities and went for it. And, I got it. Not because I was so smart or hard working, but because others just complained that they would not do much for the wage they were getting !   So, why should it be any different now ?

Reminder:  95 cents an hour grosses $38 a week, apartments were renting for $75 a month. Hey, McDonalds has lots of highly paid regional managers and execs, so does Wal-Mart.

Jul 19, 2013 11:34AM
So what?  Minimum wage jobs were never intended to support a family or an independent lifestyle.  They are intended for students and those just starting out, to get their foot in the door and get some job experience.
Jul 19, 2013 10:52AM

one that is just over 15k at a 40 hour work week. What is not ever taken into consideration is that people at that level of income:

1. dont pay much in taxes

2. get unearned tax credits

3 food stamps

4. ADC

5 free health care

6. free food programs

7. rent assitance

8. govt phones

9. plus a whole bunch of other types of assitance that most people don't get.


NOT saying I want to be in that position, but it is not the whole story.

Jul 19, 2013 12:07PM

The study may be accurate, however it is completely irrelevant.

Workers need to acquire knowledge and skills in order to become valuable to there employers. Minimum wage allows unskilled workers an opportunity to enter the workforce, and if they have the capacity, acquire knowledge and skills. It is a sad fact of life today that some of our fellow citizens have weak work ethic, and even weaker decision making skills. An increase in the minimum wage, aside from being inflationary, will inhibit the opportunity of the low skilled.  

Jul 19, 2013 1:14PM

McDonalds CEO made $13.8 million in 2012, up from the $4.1 million in 2011.  Seems like someone got a raise at McDonalds.  The company made over $27 Billion in a record year 2012.  I am sure these guys don't have enough money to pay more than minimum wage, right?

Jul 19, 2013 12:10PM
My first job paid $1.95 an hour. I had wife and kid and we got by. But that was in the early 60's
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