Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

The minimum wage challenge

Like a recent TV reporter from the New York area, a Texas blogger has done some simple math to see whether it’s really possible to get by on a minimum wage job. Subtracting housing, transportation, food, clothing, and health care leaves an estimated $50-$150 a month.

That sounds tough, but maybe doable – until a commenter points out the budget neglects some important details like toiletries (shampoo, soap, detergent, deodorant, toothbrushes, feminine products) and basic needs (like furniture, pots and pans, silverware, dishes, towels, washcloths, bedsheets and blankets).

Closer to home, the Washington State Office of Financial Management calculates the self-sufficiency wage for one rural and one urban area in an interesting comparison of poverty measures:

Ferry County (including the city of Republic):
Adult: $6.29
2 Adults + Infant: $7.44
2 Adults + teenager: $5.76

Bellevue, Juanita, Kirkland and Redmond:
Adult: $9.61
2 Adults + Infant: $10.29
2 Adults + teenager: $7.97

The report compares two measures of economic distress: the “Pearce-Brooks standard” and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. It finds that:

…as an overall statewide measure, the 200 percent of FPL standard is consistent with the more detailed Pearce-Brooks standard.

The latter adds an important regional and family characteristics dimension to the FPL standard. This study also reminds us that caution should be used in using the FPL to make inferences beyond state level estimates.

With the bulk of Washington workers located west of the Cascades in the Puget Sound Region, the self-sufficiency calculation is another sign that our state’s minimum wage still isn’t enough for workers to make ends meet.

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