To Live on Minimum Wage, You Must Work a Ton of Hours

Photo (cc) by Fibonacci Blue

Just over 93 hours per week: That’s how long the average American earning minimum wage would have to work to make what’s considered a living wage, according to one nonprofit organization.

The Alliance for a Just Society 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.”

That amounts to $16.87 per hour for the average single adult — more than twice the current national minimum wage of $7.25 — according to the alliance’s latest report, released Tuesday.

To bridge that gap, the alliance favors a minimum wage of more than $15 per hour. It also supports unionization “to ensure that all workers have access to benefits and protections in the workplace,” the report states.

Allyson Fredericksen, report author and policy analyst at the Alliance for a Just Society, states in a news release from the organization:

“The answer to low wages is not expecting people to work a ridiculous number of hours, or to make severe cutbacks in basic necessities. Instead, the answer is to pay workers enough to ensure that full-time employment provides some measure of financial stability. Our research shows that’s twice the current minimum wage in many states.”

In Hawaii, which ranked last in the alliance’s analysis of all 50 states, and Washington, D.C., a person would have to earn $21.44 per hour — or work more than 110 hours per week at minimum wage — to make a living wage.

In Arkansas, which ranked first, a person would have to earn $14.26 per hour, or work 76.1 hours per week at minimum wage.

A living wage is harder for parents to come by than single people. The report states:

“Nowhere in the country can a family with two children and two parents (who are both working) make ends meet if each working parent is paid less [than] $17.85 per hour.”

Are you surprised by this math? Do you agree it’s this difficult to earn a living wage? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

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