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$15 minimum wage permits few luxuries in U.S. cities

Last modified: 6/4/2014 12:45:52 AM
A $15 minimum wage like the one adopted in Seattle doesn’t buy many luxuries in most American cities.

Lattes, theater tickets and cable television will still be out of reach for most minimum-wage workers. But about $31,000 a year should be enough to pay the average rent for a shared one-bedroom apartment, plus utilities, health insurance, groceries and an inexpensive cell phone plan.

Monday’s vote by the Seattle City Council created the nation’s highest minimum wage. The state minimum wage in Washington state was already $9.32 an hour, the highest state wage in the U.S.

Expatistan, a website that tracks the cost of living in cities around the world, says New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Honolulu, Boston and Seattle are the most expensive U.S. cities overall, in that order.

An Associated Press comparison of the cost of living in several other major U.S. cities shows a higher wage would make a difference in those places too, but it wouldn’t allow for many extras.


Minimum wage: Currently $9.32.

RENT: A typical one-bedroom apartment goes for $1,400 a month.

GAS: A gallon of gas is $3.94.

TRANSPORTATION: A ride on the bus is $2.50.

MILK/COFFEE/OTHER: A gallon of milk averages about $3.60. A 16-ounce latte at Starbucks is $3.35, a pint of local beer $4.50.

Seattle’s wage is set to begin climbing in April 2015, with many workers reaching $11 an hour next year. That will surpass San Francisco’s minimum wage, which at $10.55 an hour is the highest of any American city.

New York City

Minimum wage: $8.

RENT: The median Manhattan rent is $3,420, according to a recent report.

GAS: A gallon of gas is $3.93.

TRANSPORTATION: A ride on the subway is $2.50. The average taxi fare is a bit over $15.

MILK/COFFEE/OTHER: A large coffee at Starbucks is about $2.45. A gallon of milk is just over $4. A foot-long sandwich at Subway is $6.90.

New York’s minimum wage, which is set by the state, is slated to rise to $8.75 on Dec. 31 and then $9 at the end of next year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has recently opened the door to let cities set their own minimum wage at 30 percent higher than the $10.10 proposed by President Barack Obama, which could mean a $13 wage in New York’s future.


Minimum wage: $7.93.

RENT: The median rent in Miami is $2,329, according to Zillow.

COFFEE: A large coffee is about $3.

TRANSPORTATION: Regular gas in Miami costs about $3.50 a gallon, a basic bus ride $2.25. Cab fares are $2.50 for the first sixth of a mile and then 40 cents per sixth of a mile.

MILK/OTHER: About $4 a gallon for milk, and a quality sub is about $8.


Minimum wage: $8.25.

RENT: The median rent price in Chicago is $1,550, according to Zillow.

GAS: A gallon of regular gasoline surpasses $4, behind only Los Angeles and San Francisco on a list of major cities.

TRANSPORTATION: A bus fare is $2. Rides on the El trains are $2.25.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has formed a task force to study the minimum-wage issue, and a group of City Council members have already proposed an ordinance to phase in a $15 wage. Chicago community activists and labor groups are pushing for the city to follow Seattle’s lead. At the ballot box in March, Chicago voters backed a $15 minimum wage in an advisory referendum.

Los Angeles

Minimum wage: $8.

RENT: A one-bedroom apartment in City Center is $1,591, while a one-bedroom outside of downtown is $1,140, according to the Economic Roundtable.

MILK/OTHER: Milk is $3.96 a gallon. A one-pound loaf of white bread is $2.21.

TRANSPORTATION: A one-way public transit tickets costs $1.50.

GAS: $3.99 a gallon.

The minimum wage in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County is $8, the same as the state’s. Like the state’s, it will increase to $9 on July 1.

The city minimum wage has exceptions in Long Beach and in Los Angeles by the airport, where hotel workers get more, according to Dan Flaming, president of the Economic Roundtable.

The LA City Council is reviewing a proposal to raise the minimum wage for all hotel workers.

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO effort has started an effort, still in its infancy, to increase the minimum wage for everyone to $15, Flaming said.


Minimum wage: $7.25.

RENT: Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,144.

GAS: A gallon of gas is $3.67.

TRANSPORTATION: A ride on public transit is $1.25.

MILK/COFFEE/OTHER: A 20-ounce cup of drip coffee at Starbucks sells for $2.45. A gallon of Wal-Mart-brand milk is $3.28.

Texas uses the federal minimum wage. An increase in Houston’s minimum wage was considered in 1997, but the idea was opposed by business leaders and defeated in a referendum.

The cost of living in the city has remained fairly stable in recent years, but housing prices have felt the pressure of migration into Texas. The Greater Houston Partnership, the local chamber of commerce, quotes a study that says the city is the third-least expensive of the 20 most populous areas in the United States.


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