# How Much Is Really a ‘Living Wage’ in Every State?

Can you afford to live where you are? The answer depends on two factors — your earnings and the cost of living in your area.

The federal minimum wage in the United States is \$7.25 per hour. Some states and a few cities set their minimum wages higher.

The cost of living varies a great deal across the country. Even in lower-cost areas, a minimum wage job may not be enough to support a family.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning calculates a living wage for each state and the District of Columbia that takes into account the costs in each. We used MIT’s updated Living Wage Calculator for a state-by-state look at what it takes in 2020 to earn enough to enjoy a basic standard of living.

This slideshow starts where the living wage is highest. See if you make a living wage for your state.

### 51. District of Columbia

Living wage for a one-person household: \$16.92 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$18.11 per hour (per adult)

The District of Columbia’s minimum wage was \$14 an hour for the first half of 2020. It increases to \$15 per hour as of July 1, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ list of minimum wages.

In D.C., however, two working adults each need to earn \$18.11 per hour in order to together have a living wage to support their household with two children, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator.

### 50. Hawaii

Living wage for a one-person household: \$15.82 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$17.14 per hour (per adult)

In the state of Hawaii, two working adults who are supporting a household with two children must each earn at least \$17.14 per hour to enjoy a living wage, according to the Living Wage Calculator. The National Council of State Legislatures, though, reports that Hawaii’s minimum wage is considerably lower than that — \$10.10 per hour.

The cost of living in Hawaii doesn’t help with this problem. It is by far the highest in the nation, reports the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

### 49. New York

Living wage for a one-person household: \$15.56 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$21.88 per hour (per adult)

New York state’s minimum wage rose to \$11.80 as the calendar rolled over on Jan. 1, 2020.

That can be small consolation, though, when your state’s cost of living is the third-highest in the nation, behind only Hawaii and the District of Columbia.

In New York City, where the cost of housing is particularly steep, the minimum wage is \$15 per hour for businesses of every size in 2020, says the state’s Department of Labor. That’s closer to the state’s living wage of \$15.56 per hour for a single adult living alone.

### 48. Massachusetts

Living wage for a one-person household: \$15.46 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$19.57 per hour (per adult)

At the start of this year, the minimum wage in Massachusetts rose to \$12.75, Money Talks News reports.

That’s not nearly enough to support a minimum standard of living for a working couple with two children. Both adults in that household would need at least \$19.57 per hour each to achieve a living wage.

### 47. California

Living wage for a one-person household: \$14.99 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$20.17 per hour (per adult)

California minimum wage workers received a raise this year, to \$13, for those who work for large employers, or \$12, for smaller employers. California was among 21 states whose minimum wage increased as 2020 began, Money Talks News reported recently.

That \$13 per hour would be close to a living wage, on average, for a single working person with no children. In California, a single parent with two children would need to earn at least \$37.46 per hour to provide a minimum standard of living, however, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator.

### 46. Maryland

Living wage for a one-person household: \$14.56 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$18.36 per hour (per adult)

Maryland lawmakers approved a \$15 minimum wage in 2019, increasing the state’s minimum wage from \$10.10 an hour incrementally until a \$15 rate is achieved for all employers in 2026.

Unfortunately, that won’t provide a living wage for any size household except those with one adult or two adults (both working), neither of them with children, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator.

### 45. New Jersey

Living wage for a one-person household: \$14.03 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$18.94 per hour (per adult)

At the start of 2020, New Jersey’s minimum wage increased to \$11 per hour, as we report in “21 States Where the Minimum Wage Is Higher in 2020.”

That’s a step closer to fulfilling the state’s pledge of a \$15 minimum wage by 2024 but still substantially below what’s needed for most households to meet a minimum standard of living in New Jersey, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator.

### 44. Virginia

Living wage for a one-person household: \$14.00 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$17.62 per hour (per adult)

In 2019, James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, started paying all full-time employees at least a living wage by bumping up the pay of those who were earning less than \$24,960 per year to the MIT calculator’s standard.

“This living wage increase is an important part of the university’s commitment to its people and community,” said Charlie King, the university’s senior vice president of Administration and Finance.

### 43. Oregon

Living wage for a one-person household: \$13.49 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$18.37 per hour (per adult)

Oregonians receive a minimum wage increase this year, as we report in “21 States Where the Minimum Wage Is Higher in 2020.”

State residents also recently enjoyed a boost to their work-life balance, when Gov. Kate Brown signed into law House Bill 2005.

The family leave law gives 12 weeks of paid time off to new parents, victims of domestic violence and people who must care for themselves or a family member with a serious health condition. Beneficiaries are eligible if they have paid into the insurance fund established by the act.

### 42. Washington

Living wage for a one-person household: \$13.47 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$17.45 per hour (per adult)

Washington’s minimum wage rose to \$13.50 per hour at the beginning of 2020, as we report in “21 States Where the Minimum Wage Is Higher in 2020.”

In late 2019, Washington had one of “The 25 Hottest State Economies in America.”

Living wage for a one-person household: \$13.43 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$18.01 per hour (per adult)

Colorado’s minimum wage increased to \$12.00 per hour this year, as we report in “21 States Where the Minimum Wage Is Higher in 2020.” However, the Legislature’s House Bill 1210, which became law in 2019, allows local governments to set their own minimum wages.

The law stipulates:

“If a local minimum wage exceeds the statewide minimum wage, the local government may only increase the local minimum wage each year by up to \$1.75 or 15%, whichever is higher.”

### 40. Connecticut

Living wage for a one-person household: \$13.38 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$18.36 per hour (per adult)

Hourly workers in the Constitution State are due for a raise in the minimum wage in 2020, we reported in “21 States Where the Minimum Wage Is Higher in 2020.”

But Connecticut is hurting economically, and people are leaving the state. Even a year ago, we reported that Connecticut was one of “The 10 Worst States for Getting a Job Right Now.”

State taxes, a high cost of living and a lagging economy are partly to blame, according to a report by the Yankee Institute for Public Policy.

### 39. Rhode Island

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.81 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$17.59 per hour (per adult)

Rhode Island’s teachers have the sixth-highest average annual salaries in the nation, Money Talks News reports. Teachers in the elementary, middle and high school levels earn over \$71,000 per year, on average.

### 38. Illinois

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.80

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$17.00 per hour (per adult)

The minimum wage in Illinois rose this year to \$9.25, as we report in “21 States Where the Minimum Wage Is Higher in 2020.”

About a third of Illinois residents are renters. A 2019 study by National Low Income Housing Coalition finds that a wage of at least \$20.85 per hour is what’s required to afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment.

“Such high housing costs make it difficult for employers to bring new jobs to our state,” said Sharon Legenza, executive director of Housing Action Illinois.

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.75 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$17.91 per hour (per adult)

Alaska’s minimum wage rose to \$10.19 this year, as we report in “21 States Where the Minimum Wage Is Higher in 2020.” That’s still a good distance from what’s needed to support a family.

Workers might have luck job-hunting for better pay in Anchorage, the state’s largest city, one of the “10 Cities With the Most High-Paying Jobs for Workers Without Degrees.”

### 36. Vermont

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.74 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$17.15 per hour (per adult)

Most Vermont workers who rent have difficulty finding affordable housing, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The report shows that workers earning an average wage in Vermont can afford to spend only about \$700 on rent. But, the average cost of a one-bedroom rental is \$945 and a two-bedroom is \$1,184.

### 35. Georgia

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.66 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.60 per hour (per adult)

Nearly one-quarter of Savannah residents live in poverty, double the national average of 12%, despite the city having spent millions of dollars earlier this decade on job-training and anti-poverty programs.

To battle this economic hardship, the nonprofit Step Up Savannah takes a multifaceted approach that includes policy advocacy and helping impoverished Georgians obtain affordable housing, education, vocational training, financial training and other services.

### 34. New Hampshire

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.61 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.81 per hour (per adult)

New Hampshire stands out for having one of the highest property taxes in the nation. The effective real-estate tax rate in the state is 2.2%, on average, we reported recently.

### 33. Delaware

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.60 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.55 per hour (per adult)

Wilmington is part of a tri-state metro area (Philadelphia-Camden, New Jersey-Wilmington, Delaware) that brings in almost half a trillion dollars in GDP annually.

With all that booming business, Delaware’s cost of living is higher than average when compared with other states, the Missouri Economic and Research Center finds.

### 32. Maine

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.48 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.76 per hour (per adult)

The percentage of Maine kids living in poverty dropped from 16.7% to 14.2% from 2016 to 2017, according to the 2019 Maine KIDS COUNT Data Book, which assesses the well-being and health of children in the state. That drop accounted for 6,400 fewer children living in poverty, the report says.

“In one year, Maine had the most significant reduction in child poverty in the country, bolstered in part by the minimum wage increase that went into effect in January 2017,” said Maine Children’s Alliance executive director Claire Berkowitz, according to a BDN Maine report.

### 31. Florida

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.39 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.14 per hour (per adult)

The Sunshine State is the destination for many folks, including retirees and business owners, from northeastern states such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Migrants from other states cite Florida’s lack of a state income tax, its cheaper real estate and lower property tax assessments among their reasons for moving there, says CBS4 News in Miami.

### 30. Minnesota

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.05 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$17.21 per hour (per adult)

This year the minimum wage in Minnesota was bumped up automatically, Money Talks News reports. Now, it is \$10 per hour for employees of large employers and \$8.15 for those working for smaller employers.

### 29. Arizona

Living wage for a one-person household: \$12.01 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$17.00 per hour (per adult)

Arizona’s minimum wage rose at the start of 2020 to \$10 per hour.

First-year Arizona teachers’ average yearly pay (\$34,473) is among the lowest in the nation and beneath the national average of \$39,249, according to the National Education Association.

Arizona is a magnet for retirees. Catalina Foothills, Arizona, took the No. 1 spot in Money’s 2020 Best Places to Retire list.

### 28. North Carolina

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.98 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.85 per hour (per adult)

Apex was one of 10 fast-growing suburbs singled out in this Money Talks News report. Located near the North Carolina state capital of Raleigh and Research Triangle Park, Apex’s population — 53,852 as of July 2018 — represents growth of 43.1% since April 2010.

The town’s median home value in October 2019 was \$353,800, a 2.6% bump up from the year before.

### 27. South Carolina

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.76 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$14.78 per hour (per adult)

South Carolina is one of the most affordable states for retirees, as we reported recently in “The 5 Most Expensive U.S. States for Retirees.”

The other most affordable states in that group also are all in the South — Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas.

### 26. Texas

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.74 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.15 per hour (per adult)

When the U.S. Census Bureau looked at population change in American cities with populations of at least 50,000, one state stood out for its cities’ tremendous growth: Texas.

Our story “The 15 Fastest-Growing Cities in America — and 5 That Shrank” quotes the bureau’s report:

“With respect to numeric change, cities in Texas are among those that have added the most people this decade.”

### 25. Utah

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.60 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.60 per hour (per adult)

Provo, home of Brigham Young University, was named the fourth-best college town in the nation. Our article, “The 25 Best College Towns and Cities in the U.S.,” says the Utah city’s surroundings are stunning.

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Provo is \$862. The average student loan debt per person is relatively low, also, at \$13,856.

### 24. Pennsylvania

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.53 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.29 per hour (per adult)

Low-Wage Living, an internet project from PublicSource.org, documents hardships that face Pennsylvanians who are working hard but still struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their families.

State stats aren’t good: In 2017, more than half of workers earning less than \$20,000 per year were spending more than half of their income on rent, says Community Action Association of Pennsylvania.

### 23. Louisiana

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.43 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.14 per hour (per adult)

Louisiana was among the worst of “The Best and Worst States for Raising a Family in 2019.” It ranked third from the bottom in an analysis by WalletHub.

### 22. Wisconsin

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.40 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.49 per hour (per adult)

A 2019 report by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty, said that even though the state economy was growing, “rising costs of living, especially in the areas of child care and medical care, offset gains in earnings and employment,” leaving poverty conditions essentially unchanged from 2010.

The research also found that “wages in key low-skill occupations in Wisconsin were actually lower in 2017 than in 2010 or even 2001” as costs for medical care and child care kept rising.

### 21. New Mexico

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.38 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.08 per hour (per adult)

As we reported in May 2019, the Land of Enchantment gets a lot of enrichment from the federal government: A full 22% of residents are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps), compared with about 1 in 8 (13%) nationally. Also, 41% of the state’s general revenues are provided by the federal government.

Also, WalletHub ranked New Mexico dead last among “The Best and Worst States for Raising a Family in 2019.”

### 20. Michigan

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.35 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.96 per hour (per adult)

Drug store CVS offered free COVID-19 tests in five states, including its Michigan locations along with Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Next, it expanded testing to more locations across the U.S.

To get a test, you must register in advance — via CVS’ COVID-19 testing webpage — and qualify.

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.25 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.65 per hour (per adult)

With unemployment skyrocketing across the U.S., the maximum unemployment benefit available to Nevadans is an annualized \$55,588. We report in “The Most Unemployment You Can Get in Every State Since COVID-19” that Nevada’s jobless rate grew faster in March than in any other state.

The Silver State is moving toward a \$12 minimum wage by 2024. Still, many workers and workers rights groups are pushing for \$15.

### 18. Alabama

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.24 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.25 per hour (per adult)

The Heart of Dixie has the eighth-lowest cost of living in the country, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

Good news for Alabamians: The state’s median wage of \$16.73 is above the living wage for a household with two working adults and two children.

### 17. Missouri

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.16 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$14.97 per hour (per adult)

Kansas City has a Living Wage registry that encourages local businesses to pay a living wage, which KC determined to be \$12.50 for its citizens in 2020.

Businesses that meet that standard for their workers can display a “Proud to Pay a Living Wage” sticker.

### 16. Wyoming

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.05 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.54 per hour (per adult)

The Equality State’s reliance on the coal industry is looking increasingly like a failed strategy. Last year two mines were shuttered, leaving hundreds of miners out of work.

More coal workers have lost work this spring. “The coal industry, long seen as a friend and economic linchpin in the state, is falling apart,” reports Vox.

### 15. Idaho

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.04 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.94 per hour (per adult)

We reported, in “States Where the Gender Income Gap Is Biggest and Smallest,” that the American Association of University Women in 2018 ranked Idaho as the sixth-worst state based on its pay gap. Women working full time in Idaho were paid 75% of what men earned, the AAUW says.

Another study, from industry group Idaho Business for Education and Hewlett Packard, long a major employer in the state, says the state needs to better prepare students for the workforce.

### 14. Indiana

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.04 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.38 per hour (per adult)

Life is particularly tough for low-income residents of Indiana. It is the fifth-worst state for taxation of people who make a low wage, as we report in “The Best and Worst Tax States for Low-Income Residents.”

Higher rates for sales and excise taxes hit low-income consumers hard in the state. However, the state has the seventh-lowest cost of living, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

### 13. North Dakota

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.02 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.28 per hour (per adult)

Thanks to an oil boom, North Dakotans’ combined personal income grew 4.4% in 2018, as Money Talks News reported.

But North Dakota’s economy grew just about 1% in the year before the coronavirus pandemic began, this Pew study says.

### 12. Iowa

Living wage for a one-person household: \$11.00 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.30 per hour (per adult)

The Last-Dollar Scholarship program from Future Ready Iowa aims to help new high school graduates train for high-demand fields such as welding, nursing, paramedics, computer technology and many others.

### 11. Kentucky

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.98 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.81 per hour (per adult)

Some 31% of Kentucky children’s parents lack secure employment, and 22% of the state’s kids live in poverty.

That’s according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Report, its most recent. The study illuminates state trends in child well-being.

### 10. Montana

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.97 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$16.62 per hour (per adult)

Montana gets a thumbs-up in “The Best and Worst Tax States for Low-Income Residents.” It was ranked the third-best for lower-income residents, in large part because of lower tax rates.

However, retirees should look out: Montana is one of the 13 states that tax Social Security income.

### 9. Tennessee

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.97 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$14.50 per hour (per adult)

Tennessee has been doing well, at least before the pandemic dealt a blow to states’ economies. Incomes in the state were rising in 2019, as we reported in “13 States Where Residents’ Income Has Grown Fastest.”

The Volunteer State has the 11th-lowest cost of living in the U.S., according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.96 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.76 per hour (per adult)

Nebraska’s median hourly wage was \$18.46, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report in May 2019.

The state’s cost of living is 17th-lowest in the nation, reports the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

### 7. Oklahoma

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.94 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.73 per hour (per adult)

The Sooner State has the third-lowest cost of living in the nation, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

The bad news is that, in 2019, CNBC placed Oklahoma 43rd in a ranking of the best states for business, giving the state grades of F for workforce, quality of life, education and technology and innovation.

### 6. Mississippi

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.89 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$13.39 per hour (per adult)

Mississippi’s cost of living is the lowest in the country, according to the Missouri Economic and Research Information Center.

The Magnolia State, however, is the second-worst state in the U.S. for raising a family, we report in “The Best and Worst States for Raising a Family in 2019.”

### 5. Ohio

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.86 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$15.28 per hour (per adult)

Holy Toledo! The Lake Erie city of about a quarter-million people is the city with the most high-paying jobs for workers without college degrees, we reported recently in “10 Cities With the Most High-Paying Jobs for Workers Without Degrees.”

Toledo’s cost of living, home prices and rental costs are relatively low, too.

### 4. Kansas

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.86 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$14.96 per hour (per adult)

In its survey of “America’s Top States for Business 2019,” CNBC rated Kansas as the “most improved” state compared with the previous year.

On top of that, Kansas has the second-lowest cost of living in the country, according to the latest numbers from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

### 3. West Virginia

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.83 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$14.76 per hour (per adult)

Even before pandemic-caused unemployment increases began to hit state economies, the numbers didn’t look good for West Virginia. The Appalachian Regional Commission’s bleak report for fiscal year 2020 identifies many West Virginia counties as “distressed” or “at risk.”

West Virginia also landed in 45th place in CNBC’s report on the best states for business, which calls the Mountain State “a technological backwater.” Although West Virginia scores high for its low cost of doing business and low cost of living, the state also ranks low for its workforce, technology and innovation, business friendliness, access to capital and its quality of life and education.

### 2. Arkansas

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.67 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$14.64 per hour (per adult)

Arkansas ended fiscal 2019 with a \$295.4 million budget surplus after collections of income taxes topped forecasts.

Even though the pandemic has dealt a severe blow to state economies, Arkansas is not among states “Where COVID-19 Is Hitting State Revenue Hardest” this year.

### 1. South Dakota

Living wage for a one-person household: \$10.60 per hour

Living wage for a household with two working adults and two children: \$14.76 per hour (per adult)

In Money Talks News’ look at “13 States Where Residents’ Income Has Grown Fastest,” South Dakota ranks No. 2.

South Dakota also came out on top by another measure. “If you’re looking for a place to retire, you won’t do much better than to look north to South Dakota,” we told readers in “This Surprising State Is the Best Place to Retire.” According to research by Bankrate, people in the state are “content with their lives.”

South Dakotans enjoy good health, no income tax and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, the article says.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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