Living Wage Series - United States - December 2018 - In US Dollar, per Month

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 535-860 550-880 135-220
Housing 950-1420 950-1420 595-855
Transport 120-170 120-170 60-86
Health 160-250 160-250 40-63
Education 50-100 50-100 0
Other costs 91-140 91-140 42-61
Total Expenditure 1906-2940 1921-2960 872-1285
Net Living Wage 1191-1838 1067-1644 872-1285
Gross Living Wage 1540-2370 1380-2120 1130-1660

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) 1540-2370
Standard family (two parents + 2 children, 1.8 working) 1380-2120
Two parents and two children, 2 working 1240-1910
Two parents and two children, 1.5 working 1650-2550
Two parents and two children, 1 working 2480-3820
Two parents and three children, 1.6 working 1670-2570
Two parents and four children, 1.6 working 1780-2760
Single-adult without children, 1 working 1130-1660

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 1050-1490 1070-1500 1080-1560 1130-1660
Living Wage - Typical Family 1500-2250 1500-2200 1510-2260 1540-2370
Real wage of low-skilled worker 1380-2340 1600-2020 1430-1780 1530-1920
Real wage of medium-skilled worker 1440-2570 1710-2470 1710-2420 1790-2570
Real wage of high-skilled worker 2510-4440 3120-4580 3040-4350 3110-4510

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.

United States Graph

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 item Grams per day Energy (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 2.5-4
Maize and products 20 54 2-4
Milk - Excluding Butter 411 217 1.5-2.9
Vegetables, Other 108 25 2.2-4
Potatoes and products 84 50 2-3
Butter, Ghee 8 60 3-5
Groundnuts (Shelled Eq) 14 52 4-7
Pulses, Other and products 0 1 3.8-6
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 7.8-12
Beer (0.5 liter/pint) 127 54 5.5-8.8
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 4-5
Yams 0 0 3-3.6
Apples and products 30 14 2-3
Tomatoes and products 61 11 2-3
Onions 15 5 1.7-2
Oranges, Mandarines 39 12 3-4.4
Plantains 1 1 2-3
Peas 2 6 2-3
Roots, Other 2 1 2-3
Seeds and kernels 1 6 2-4
Wine (bottle) 14 9 12-16
Pineapples and products 10 4 3.3-5
Cream 0 0 3-5
Olives (including preserved) 1 1 4-8
Honey 1 4 5-8
Citrus, Other 0 0 3-4
Lemons, Limes and products 15 2 1.3-2.3
Tea (including mate) 1 0 2-4
Grapefruit and products 3 1 1.5-2
Coffee and products 7 3 6-7.7

 

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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