Living Wage Series - United States - August 2017 - In USD per Month

Living wages, Wages in context - United States

The Living Wage is based on the concept that work should provide an adequate income to cover the necessary living costs of a family. WageIndicator calculates Living Wage for around 50 countries based on prices collected within the WageIndicator Cost of Living Survey. The Living Wage calculated by WageIndicator is composed of seven parts: food, housing, transport, health, education, tax and other costs.

WageIndicator presents Living Wages for several household types and working hours to respond to different demands for living wage information: Typical family Living Wage is a baseline estimate that respects the country specific conditions. Family includes two adults and the number of children is given by country specific fertility rate (1.9 children per woman). One parent is working full-time and the working hours of second parent are approximated by national employment rate (64% in 2017). Standard family Living Wage is estimated for a family composed of two adults and two children. One parent is employed full-time and the second parent works 4 days a week it means family employment rate is 1.8. Single-adult Living Wage represents an acceptable standard of living for a single individual working full-time with no dependents.

Expenditure and Living Wage calculation (monthly rates in USD)

  Typical family   Standard family   Single-adult  
  from to from to from to
Food 550 820 560 840 140 210
Housing 500 550 500 550 450 500
Transport 100 150 100 150 50 75
Health 100 265 100 265 25 66
Education 50 100 50 100 0 0
Other costs 65 94 66 95 33 43
Total Expenditure 1365 1979 1376 2000 698 894
Net Living Wage 853 1237 764 1111 698 894
Gross Living Wage 1101 1596 986 1433 900 1154

Note: For more details see Living Wage FAQ.

Family Living Wages (monthly rates in USD)

There is not a single answer to what is the adequate cost of living. The result is complex, as the cost of living varies by household composition, location, and employment pattern. The following table presents the Living Wage estimates for a set of common household compositions and under different assumptions about working hours.

  from to
Typical family (two parents + 1.9 children, 1.6 working) 1100 1600
Standard family (two parents + 2 children, 1.8 working) 985 1440
Two parents and two children, 2 working 890 1290
Two parents and two children, 1.5 working 1190 1720
Two parents and two children, 1 working 1780 2580
Two parents and three children, 1.6 working 1230 1790
Two parents and four children, 1.6 working 1350 1970
Single-adult without children, 1 working 900 1160

Note: Results in the table are rounded.

Living Wages in Context (monthly rates in USD)

Living Wages are presented in context with other wage indicators including minimum wage, poverty line, and various prevailing wages of workers. Table shows the development of income levels over two years.

7-12/20151-6/20167-12/20161-6/2017
  from to from to from to from to
Minimum wage 1257 . 1257 . 1257 . 1257 .
Living Wage - Typical Family 1190 1890 1070 1770 1130 1650 1100 1600
Living Wage - Single Adult 920 1210 895 1190 960 1200 900 1160
Real wage of low-skilled worker 1490 1870 1520 1880 1460 1820 1670 2210
Real wage of medium-skilled worker 1710 2510 1850 2500 1890 2570 1890 2690
Real wage of high-skilled worker 2780 4200 2920 4120 2960 4200 2930 4390

Note: Reported monthly earnings of workers in low-, medium-, and high-skilled occupations are obtained from the voluntary WageIndicator web surveys on work and wages over the last 36 months. Results in the table are rounded.

Living Wage model diet and food prices in USD

The food expenditure is the main component of Living Wage and it is determined by the price of food basket. The food prices are taken from WageIndicator Cost of Living Survey which collects the actual prices of all items necessary to calculate the Living Wage. The composition of the food basket is taken from the national food balance sheets published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The food basket is scaled to 2,100 calories per person per day that is the nutritional requirement for good health proposed by World Bank (Handbook on poverty and inequality, 2009).

Food itemGrams per dayEnergy (kcal)Price per kilo fromto
Wheat, barley and cereals 140 375 3 4
Rice 11 42 2 3
Meat (beef, pork, poultry) 187 250 5 8
Oils (soyabean, olive, palm) 48 403 2.8 3.2
Sugar (Raw Equivalent) 51 188 2 4
Maize and products 20 54 2 4
Milk - Excluding Butter 411 217 2 3
Vegetables, Other 108 25 2.6 4
Potatoes and products 84 50 2 3
Butter, Ghee 8 60 3 4
Groundnuts (Shelled Eq) 14 52 4 4.9
Pulses, Other and products 0 1 3 6.8
Cassava and products 0 0 3 4
Egg (price per 10 eggs) 24 33 33.3 2.5
Sunflowerseed Oil 0 4 3 4
Fish products 35 20 8 13
Beer 127 54 5 7.7
Sweeteners, Other 51 162 2.3 3.5
Beans 5 16 2 3
Sweet potatoes 5 4 2 3
Bananas 19 11 .9 1.4
Soyabeans 0 0 4 4
Yams 0 0 2 3
Apples and products 30 14 1.8 2.8
Tomatoes and products 61 11 2 3
Onions 15 5 1.7 2
Oranges, Mandarines 39 12 2.2 3.1
Plantains 1 1 2 3
Peas 2 6 1.5 2
Roots, Other 2 1 2 3
Seeds and kernels 1 6 2 3
Wine 14 9 12 16
Pineapples and products 10 4 . .
Cream 0 0 3 4
Olives (including preserved) 1 1 4 8
Honey 1 4 6 10
Citrus, Other 0 0 3 4
Lemons, Limes and products 15 2 1 2.3
Tea (including mate) 1 0 3 4
Grapefruit and products 3 1 1.9 3
Coffee and products 7 3 6 7.7

Data sources:

Living Wage FAQ.

WageIndicator Cost of Living Survey

World Bank Databank, Fertility rate – average births per woman in years 2010-2014

ILO, Estimated participation rate in 2017

FAO, Food balance sheet in 2013 

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