Can a Family Survive on the US Minimum Wage?

The minimum wage does not provide a living wage for most American families. A typical family of four (two working adults, two children) needs to work nearly two full-time minimum wage jobs each (a 77-hour work week per working adult) to earn a living wage.
Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25, or $15,080 a year. 4 Many economists believe this is woefully inadequate and unjust.
Consider this: In 1968, the minimum wage peaked at an inflation adjusted value of $10.15 in 2018 dollars, which was worth 28.6% more than the federal minimum wage in 2018. 5 The minimum wage has been a political issue since its inception.
During his presidency, Barack Obama signed an executive order to increase the minimum wage of some federal workers to $10.10, reasoning that the overall federal rate should also be raised to that amount. Although this campaign stalled in Congress, federal inaction prompted many states to legislate their own minimum-wage increases. 6 7 In early 2021, the U.S.
The House of Representatives and the Senate both referred the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 to the committee. 8 9 The bill is aimed to gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025. 10 It was last introduced in 2019 but did not make it out of committee and, as a result, the debate about whether to lift the federal minimum wage rages on today.
A single parent with two children needs to work the equivalent of three and one half full-time jobs (139 hours per work week), more hours than there are in five days, to earn the living wage on a minimum wage income.
Across all family sizes, the living wage exceeds the poverty threshold, often used to identify need. State minimum wages provide for only a portion of the living wage. For two adult, two child families, the minimum wage covers 63.7% of the living wage before taxes at best in Washington and 40.2% at worst in Hawaii.
This means that families earning between the poverty threshold ($24,037 for two working adults, two children on average in the United States in 2014) and the living wage ($61,336 on average for two working adults, two children per year before taxes), may fall short of the income and assistance they require to meet their basic needs.
The cost of housing and childcare for families with children exceeds all other expenses. In the United States, a typical family of four (two working adults, two children) spends 21% of their after-tax income on childcare and another 20% on housing. Faced with tradeoffs, a second working adult in a family with two children must earn at least $11,224 on average in order to cover the costs of childcare and other increased expenses when they enter the workforce. Single-parent families need to work almost twice as much as families with two working adults to earn the living wage. A single-mother with two children earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour needs to work 139 hours per week, more hours than there are in a 5-day week, to earn a living wage.


the minimum wage remains a relevant controversy in our society because it impacts the living conditions, jobs, and the economy in both positive and negative ways. Minimum wage stimulates the economic growth of a country by increasing consumption.

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