NC Budget and Tax Center

The minimum wage doesn’t even come close to what workers need

Today, the Raising Wages NC coalition is at the North Carolina General Assembly urging legislators to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and $15 an hour by 2022. This modest, common sense ask isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes economic sense. It’s good for workers who are able to pay for basic expenses, for businesses when consumers have increased purchasing power, and for the health of our entire economy.

One tool that can help make clear just what workers need provide for their families and make ends meet is the Living Income Standard (LIS). Using nine different measures, the LIS documents just how much workers need to earn in order to provide for their families based on family geography, food and housing costs, childcare, healthcare, transportation, and many more common expenses.

With this level of detail, we are able to understand how the expenses of workers in a high-cost, urban county may differ from the expenses of a worker in a rural, more affordable county. Despite differences in the costs families incur, one thing remains consistent across the state: In no county are low-wage workers able to cover the basic necessities while earning the minimum wage.

From the report:

The first step in closing the divide between what people actually earn and what it takes to meet basic needs is raising the state’s minimum wage standard. $7.25 is simply too little to support a family and the economic activity needed to sustain jobs across the state.

Work not only allows individuals and families to meet most basic needs, it also opens the door to new opportunities and a sense of dignity and purpose, all of which have driven America’s economic growth for generations. Restoring the promise of work in well-paying jobs with benefits is the central challenge confronting North Carolina as the state maps a pathway to greater economic security that reaches more households.

The Living Income Standard should be one measure of our progress on that path. It can assess how successful the state is at creating jobs that – at the very least – don’t generate greater societal costs. And it can support efforts to build understanding and a willingness to engage based on the simple fact that in order for families to make ends meet, their wages must match the costs of basic household goods.

In order to see how much workers need to earn in order to make ends meet in your county, visit our 2018 County Economic Snapshots and 2016 Living Income Standard.

Brian Kennedy II is a Public Policy Fellow for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

One Comment


  1. Joseph Williams

    May 22, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Why is it that liberals think minimum wage is designed to provide for the worker who makes it, his wife that doesn’t work , and 2 maybe even 5 kids? Minimum wage is meant for high school kids who are just entering the work force not illegal aliens that rob our up and coming citizens of learning discipline and basic work ethic needed for the kids future place in the real world. Minimum wage was also designed for adults who lack technical skills in the work place where they are employeed but if the adult worker doesn’t have any skill sets in any fields of labour he damn sure doesn’t need more mouths to feed and the rent payment of a 3-4 bedroom apartment and no insurance! Why does that type of employee need 15 bucks an hour especially if he too stupid to do any task that might require an education,certification, or grew up in a family ran buisness and has already been performing task due to constant exposure. Now if the liberal protester decides to open a small business in the future could they afford 10 dumb ass workers @ $15 and then multiply that by 40 hours each = $6,000 just for labour cost that would wreck any small buisness owner in America. Why couldn’t the protest move down to Mexico and you could lobby and protest and fight for worker rights where they have none and let America’s economy run within it’s operational perameters? And by the way I’m a member of the AFL-CIO and the UAW and I am certain this article and idea of $15 per hr. started at the AFL-CIO. I’ve witnessed the libtard rhetoric up close and personal! Have a great day working Americans.

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