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.

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