Living Wage Series - United States - January 2018 - In US Dollar, 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 uses prices from the Cost of Living Survey to calculate Living Wage in more than 60 countries. The Living Wage is an approximate income needed to meet a family’s basic needs including food, housing, transport, health, education, tax deductions and other necessities.

The following table summarises the varying expenditure and income needs for the three commonly occurring family household compositions.

Expenditure and Living Wage calculation (monthly rates in US Dollar)

  Typical family Standard family Single-adult
  from-to from-to from-to
Food 535-850 545-875 135-220
Housing 915-1290 915-1290 560-775
Transport 120-160 120-160 60-80
Health 100-250 100-250 25-63
Education 50-115 50-115 0
Other costs 86-135 87-135 39-57
Total Expenditure 1806-2800 1817-2825 819-1195
Net Living Wage 1129-1750 1009-1569 819-1195
Gross Living Wage 1460-2260 1300-2030 1060-1540

Note: For more details see Living Wage FAQ.


Family Living Wages (monthly rates in US Dollar)

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 most common family household compositions and under different assumptions about working hours.

  from-to
Typical family (two parents + 1.9 children, 1.6 working) 1460-2260
Standard family (two parents + 2 children, 1.8 working) 1300-2030
Two parents and two children, 2 working 1170-1820
Two parents and two children, 1.5 working 1570-2430
Two parents and two children, 1 working 2350-3650
Two parents and three children, 1.6 working 1590-2470
Two parents and four children, 1.6 working 1700-2650
Single-adult without children, 1 working 1060-1540

Note: Results in the table are rounded.


Living Wages in Context (monthly rates in US Dollar)

The Minimum Wage is a national legally binding obligation on employers which often make no reference to a living standard. Living Wage describes the adequate living standard. The common goal of the many living wage campaigns currently taking place all over the world is to lift Minimum Wages levels to those of the Living Wages. WageIndicator presents Living Wages jointly with Minimum Wages, aiming to raise awareness concerning the remaining differences in levels. Living Wages are presented in context with other wage indicators including prevailing wages of workers over recent years.

  2015 2016 2017 2018
Minimum wage 1257 1257 1257 1257
Living Wage - Single Adult 990-1420 1020-1450 1030-1460 1060-1540
Living Wage - Typical Family 1490-2260 1420-2150 1440-2180 1460-2260
Real wage of low-skilled worker 1390-2340 1630-2180 1430-1760 1550-1960
Real wage of medium-skilled worker 1430-2570 1780-2760 1670-2380 1760-2560
Real wage of high-skilled worker 2560-4440 3250-4950 3090-4330 3160-4520

Note: Table shows the lowest monthly Minimum Wage in a country, when available. Reported monthly earnings of workers in low-, medium-, and high-skilled occupations are obtained from the voluntary WageIndicator web survey on work and wages. Results in the table are rounded.


Food basket and food prices in US Dollar

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
Wheat, barley and cereals products 140 375 3-4
Rice 11 42 2-3
Meat (beef, pork, poultry) 187 250 5-8
Oils (soyabean, olive, palm) 48 403 2.8-3.4
Sugar (Raw Equivalent) 51 188 2.4-4
Maize and products 20 54 2-4
Milk - Excluding Butter 411 217 1.5-3
Vegetables, Other 108 25 2.6-4
Potatoes and products 84 50 2-3
Butter, Ghee 8 60 3-4.4
Groundnuts (Shelled Eq) 14 52 4-4.9
Pulses, Other and products 0 1 2.2-6.3
Cassava and products 0 0 3-4
Egg (price per 10 eggs) 24 33 1.7-2.5
Sunflowerseed Oil 0 4 3-4
Fish products 35 20 7.1-11
Beer 127 54 5.5-9.1
Sweeteners, Other 51 162 2.3-3.5
Beans 5 16 2-3.1
Sweet potatoes 5 4 2-3
Bananas 19 11 1-1.5
Soyabeans 0 0 4-4
Yams 0 0 3-3.9
Apples and products 30 14 2-3
Tomatoes and products 61 11 2-3
Onions 15 5 1.7-2
Oranges, Mandarines 39 12 2.7-4.4
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 2-4
Honey 1 4 6.5-10
Citrus, Other 0 0 3-4
Lemons, Limes and products 15 2 1-2.2
Tea (including mate) 1 0 2-4
Grapefruit and products 3 1 1.5-2
Coffee and products 7 3 5-7.7


WageIndicator Living Wage background:

The WageIndicator Living Wage is set to provide acceptable living standard to a family of a particular size. WageIndicator presents Living Wages for several household types and working hours which reflect the most frequently found real situations in which people have to make a living: 1. Typical family Living Wage is a baseline estimate that respects the country specific conditions. Typical family is comprised of two adults and the number of children is given by country specific fertility rate (the average number of children a woman is expected to have during her lifespan). One adult is working full-time and the working hours of second adult are approximated by national employment rate. The total income earned by two adults paid living wage is sufficient to reach adequate living standard. 2. Standard family Living Wage is estimated for a family composed of two adults and two children (referred to as family 2+2). Living wage is calculated under different assumptions about working hours. These include that both adults work full-time (family employment rate is 2), or at least one adult works part-time or half-time (family employment rate is 1.8 and 1.5), or one adult does not work at all (i.e. patriarchal model with family employment 1). Alternatives refer to trade-offs between leisure and work and define what living wage represents. In every case the total income earned by two adults paid living wage is sufficient to reach adequate living standard. 3. Extended family Living Wage includes family with three or four children. One adult works full-time and the work intensity of second parent is approximated by national employment rate. 4. Individual Living Wage represents an acceptable standard of living for a single individual working full-time.

Data sources: WageIndicator Cost of Living Survey, World Bank Databank Fertility rate 2010-2014, ILO Estimated participation rate in 2017, FAO Food balance sheet in 2013.

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