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