Could You Live on the Minimum Wage?
We know the hard facts about minimum wage: the federal rate is just $7.25 per hour, or about $14,500 in yearly income. But exactly how far does that amount stretch?
The New York Times has put together a "Can You Survive on the Minimum Wage?" calculator to help give a sense of just how difficult it is to get by when earning the lowest legal pay. It offers a look at the disheartening financial calculations that low-wage workers are forced to perform each day. Punch in how much you spend on food, transportation, rent, and utilities each month, and it quickly becomes apparent why minimum-wage workers often have to take on two jobs, acquire crushing debt, or do without many of life's essentials in order to survive.
Maintaining a household while earning the minimum wage is so difficult, if not impossible, that some low-wage employers have taken to advising their workers to take second jobs or find impossibly cheap housing in order to make ends meet.
But the answer is not to tell low-wage earners to work more or spend less, it's to offer them a fair deal by raising the minimum wage. That's one of the key recommendations of the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. This year's Hunger Report points out that 28 percent of U.S. workers earn poverty-level wages, and Congress has raised the minimum wage only three times in the past 30 years.
President Obama said in his State of the Union address last month that he intended to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10. Today, he made good on that promise by signing an executive order that will do so, effective Jan. 1, 2015. Federal contract workers earning the minimum wage make up a small portion of this country's low-wage earners, but the order is an important first step toward ensuring that all Americans can earn a livable wage and care for themselves and their families.
Income from work is the primary buffer against hunger for the vast majority of American families—it's time to raise the minimum wage and make sure that every full-time worker earns enough to keep a family out of poverty.
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