11 September 2008

Minimum wage earners also can not afford prime porterhouse steaks.

ATTACKERMAN » Just got paid and we still was broke:

There is not a single city or county in the US where a full time worker earning the minimum wage could afford even a 1 bedroom apartment.
So live in an efficiency, like your humble narrator. Or get a roommate. Half of a two bedroom rent is cheaper than one bedroom all to yourself.

Note also that the study in question arbitrarily assumes that you spend no more than 30% of wages on rent. I spend closer to 50% and still manage to keep the pantry stocked, my dog cared for, and take frequent, though short, vacations.

Also, consider that 21.6% of minimum wage earners are 19 and under, and often don't need to rent an apartment anyway. Another 25.5% are between 20 and 24 (inclusive). Americans in that age range routinely stuff themselves into conditions far more cramped than studio apartments and come out none the worse for wear. We call them college students in dorms. The world does not owe you your very own one bedroom apartment, especially if you're under 25.

Finally, I must point out the provenance of the study, which was generated by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which is dedicated to lobbying for more lower cost housing. Make of that what you will.

(Via DCeiver.)

Appendix: The NLIHC numbers state you need 3.4 minimum wage earners, working 40 hours a week, and each spending 30% of their income on housing, to rent a two bedroom in Maryland, where I live. (Or this is what their conclusions say; I didn't check their figures.) Call this 3.4*.30 = 1.02 minimum wage incomes. If you put one occupant in each of the two bedrooms, each would need to spend 51% of their wages on rent. As I said, I spend about 50% of my wages on rent, and could spend much less if I did not have a dog or choose to live exceedingly close to work. Conclusion: nothing is wrong with this situation.


  1. Jared,
    As I so often do, I completely agree with your blog. Most (but not all) people under 25 would typically not need a one bedroom apartment. According to your calculations, still more than half of the minimum wage earners are 25 or over. Imagine a single mother of three, or even a married couple with two children. For so many of these workers, given the cost of child care, it makes more sense only to have one parent work. For a family of four, a one bedroom apartment is the bare necessity. Those types of families can't exactly find a roommate on Craig's List. And $1,000 per month is not going to help a family of four. While I agree that the survey you reference uses numbers are probably skewed in order to make a point, the point is still one to be made. Raising the minimum wage is always only a band-aid solution. We need more affordable housing to lift the working poor out of poverty.

  2. Thanks for commenting, friend. I wasn't trying to say that finding housing, or living generally, on low incomes is without difficulty. The hypothetical people you describe would certainly have a very tough go of it, though based on figures like this I'm generally inclined to think there are much fewer such cases than one might expect. Nonetheless such people certainly do exist and that is a problem that our society needs to address. But I do not appreciate people making what I feel to be spurious arguments even in the service of a good cause, which is why I felt compelled to offer rebuke.

    Personally I would prefer that we first establish how many people are trying to support families under such difficult conditions, and then determine why they are in the position of having to do so. Many minimum wage earners did not complete high school, for instance. Many more find employment difficult because of criminal records. I would like to see us concentrating on addressing the deep systematic flaws of our educational and criminal justice systems that lead so many to have to support themselves on unskilled wages rather than dictating X% increases in the minimum wage or that Y new affordable housing units be constructed.