Living Wage Series - United States - September 2019 - 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 70 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 USD)

  Typical family Standard family Single-adult
  from-to from-to from-to
Food expenses 600-860 630-905 155-225
Housing expenses 955-1360 955-1360 605-840
Transport expenses 120-170 120-170 60-85
Healthcare expenses 150-250 150-250 38-63
Education expenses 60-100 60-100 0
Other expenses 94-135 96-140 43-61
Total Expenditure 1979-2875 2011-2925 901-1274
Net Living Wage 1237-1797 1117-1625 901-1274
Gross Living Wage 1600-2320 1440-2100 1160-1650

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

Typical family (two parents + 1.8 children, 1.6 working) 1600-2320
Standard family (two parents + 2 children, 1.8 working) 1440-2100
Two parents and two children, 2 working 1300-1890
Two parents and two children, 1.5 working 1730-2520
Two parents and two children, 1 working 2600-3780
Two parents and three children, 1.6 working 1760-2560
Two parents and four children, 1.6 working 1890-2740
Single-adult without children, 1 working 1160-1650

Note: Results in the table are rounded.


Living Wages in Context (monthly rates in USD)

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.

  2016 2017 2018 2019
Minimum wage 1257 1257 1257 1257
Living Wage - Single Adult 1030-1460 1080-1500 1100-1560 1160-1650
Living Wage - Typical Family 1460-2130 1510-2170 1530-2240 1600-2320
Real wage of low-skilled worker - - 1670-2280 1730-2380
Real wage of medium-skilled worker - - 1830-2520 1860-2590
Real wage of high-skilled worker - - 2850-4260 2840-4300

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.

840_United States

Food basket 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 item Grams per day Energy (kcal) Price per kilo
Wheat, barley and cereals products 140 375 3-4.6
Rice 11 42 2.2-4
Meat (beef, pork, poultry) 187 250 6-8.8
Oils (soyabean, olive, palm) 48 403 2.7-3
Sugar (Raw Equivalent) 55 201 -
Maize and products 20 54 2.8-4
Milk - Excluding Butter 411 217 .7-.9
Vegetables, Other 338 79 1.1-1.7
Potatoes and products 89 53 1.7-2.2
Butter, Ghee 8 60 3-4
Groundnuts (Shelled Eq) 14 52 4-6.5
Pulses, Other and products 0 1 2-4
Cassava and products 0 0 4-4
Egg (price per 10 eggs) 74 104 20-25
Sunflowerseed Oil 0 4 3-4
Fish products 35 20 6-11
Beer (0.5 liter/pint) 127 54 4.3-7.2
Sweeteners, Other 51 162 2.3-3
Beans 5 16 3-3.1
Sweet potatoes 5 4 2.5-3
Bananas 19 11 1.1-1.3
Soyabeans 0 0 4-4
Yams 0 0 3-4
Apples and products 30 14 2.2-3.7
Tomatoes and products 191 33 2.8-4.4
Onions 15 5 1.7-2.2
Oranges, Mandarines 39 12 2.2-3.5
Plantains 1 1 2-3
Peas 2 6 1.1-2
Roots, Other 2 1 2-3
Seeds and kernels 1 6 2-3
Wine (bottle) 14 9 9.8-16
Pineapples and products 11 4 -
Cream 0 0 7.7-11
Olives (including preserved) 1 1 4-9.6
Honey 1 4 -
Citrus, Other 0 0 3-3
Lemons, Limes and products 15 2 1.5-2.2
Tea (including mate) 1 0 4-4
Grapefruit and products 3 1 1.9-3
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.

WageIndicator useful links:

Publication Guzi, M., & Kahanec, M. (2019).  Living Wage Globally. Amsterdam, WageIndicator Foundation
WageIndicator Wages in Context Map with the latest updates
All You Always wanted to Know about Living Wages