What Is A Living Wage In The U.S.?

MIT has a calculator to tell you

a one dollar bill in front of a white brick wall

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

According to the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary, “minimum wage” is, “the lowest wage that an employer is allowed to pay by law.” In other words, minimum wage is not the equivalent of a living wage, and as anyone who has earned anything remotely close to it can attest, minimum wage is more often than not, hardly enough to survive on.

So… how are you supposed to figure out how much money you need to make in order to live comfortably in the United States?

Enter: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator, (a tool I discovered thanks to an Instagram post from thefinanceczar).

Created by Amy Glasmeier and Tracey Farrigan in 2003, the MIT Living Wage Calculator provides, “what one full-time worker must earn on an hourly basis to help cover the cost of their family’s minimum basic needs where they live while still being self-sufficient.”

Upon entering your U.S. county or Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the calculator displays the living wage estimates for various household scenarios, showing those for individuals, and households with one or two working adults and zero to three children. These numbers account for the expenses of food, childcare, health care, housing, transportation, civic engagement, broadband, other necessities, and additional costs associated with income and payroll taxes.

The calculator also lists typical annual salaries for various professions in your chosen location along with the area’s minimum wage and poverty wage, so you can easily compare them with each other and your current wage.

If you would like to read more about the methodology behind MIT’s living wage calculator, you can do so here.

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