It Ain't Fair

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Cost of living living wage politics wages fall behind cost of living

Fact Sheet for America

The U.S. Population is 329 million in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau figures about 7% are non-citizens, that would be approx. 23 million 

Depending on where you get your number from, there are between 119 million and 128 million households in America. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were  128,580,000 households in America; here is information on their incomes for 2019.

  • 9.1% or 11.7 million households made less than $15,000.
  • 8.0% or 10.2 million households made $15,000 to $24,999
  • 8.3% or 10.67 million households made $25,000 to $34,999
  • 11.7% or 15.04 million households made $35,000 to $49,999

That is 37.1%, or 47.61million households made less than  $50,000

  • 16.5% or 21.21 million households made $50,000 to $74,999
  • 12.3% or 15.81million households made $75,000 to $99,999
  • 15.5% or 19.92 million households made $100,000 to $149,999
  • 8.3% or 10.67 million households made$150,000 to $199,999
  • 10.3% or 13.24 million households made $200,000 plus

About 34.1% of households earned more than $100,000 a year. My guess is, depending on where you live, that’s a reasonably good income, but what about the 37.1% that make less than $50,000 a year? What about the 32.57% that make less than $35,000 a year.

I don’t know how many of those households are seniors or disabled or just have a temporary setback like sickness or laid off. But my point is some in America are doing fine; a lot aren’t doing so fine.

Here are some living wage numbers for a family of four in various cities in America. The calculator is updated every January. You can go to the calculator and plug in any city or size family and get living expenses for that locale.

About the Living Wage Calculator

The Living Wage Calculator was first created in 2004 by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier. It is updated every January.


Analysts and policymakers often compare income to the federal poverty threshold in order to determine an individual’s ability to live within a certain standard of living. However, poverty thresholds do not account for living costs beyond a very basic food budget. The federal poverty measure does not take into consideration costs like childcare and health care that not only draw from one’s income, but also are determining factors in one’s ability to work and to endure the potential hardships associated with balancing employment and other aspects of everyday life. Further, poverty thresholds do not account for geographic variation in the cost of essential household expenses. 

The living wage model is an alternative measure of basic needs. It is a market-based approach that draws upon geographically specific expenditure data related to a family’s likely minimum food, childcare, health insurance, housing, transportation, and other basic necessities (e.g. clothing, personal care items, etc.) costs. The living wage draws on these cost elements and the rough effects of income and payroll taxes to determine the minimum employment earnings necessary to meet a family’s basic needs while also maintaining self-sufficiency. 

The living wage model generates a cost of living estimate that exceeds the federal poverty thresholds. As calculated, the living wage estimate accounts for the basic needs of a family. The living wage model does not include funds that cover what many may consider as necessities enjoyed by many Americans. The tool does not include funds for pre-prepared meals or those eaten in restaurants. We do not add funds for entertainment, nor do we incorporate leisure time for unpaid vacations or holidays. Lastly, the calculated living wage does not provide a financial means to enable savings and investment or for the purchase of capital assets (e.g., provisions for retirement or home purchases). The living wage is the minimum income standard that, if met, draws a very fine line between the financial independence of the working poor and the need to seek out public assistance or suffer consistent and severe housing and food insecurity. In light of this fact, the living wage is perhaps better defined as a minimum subsistence wage for persons living in the United States.


The living wage calculator estimates the living wage needed to support families of twelve different compositions: one adult families with 0, 1, 2, or 3 dependent children, two adult families where both adults are in the workforce with 0, 1, 2, or 3 dependent children, and two adult families where one adult is not in the workforce with 0, 1, 2, or 3 dependent children. 

For single adult families, the adult is assumed to be employed full-time. For two adult families where both adults are in the labor force, both adults are assumed to be employed full-time. For two adult families where one adult is not in the labor force, one of the adults is assumed to be employed full-time while the other non-wage-earning adult provides full-time childcare for the family’s children. Full-time work is assumed to be year-round, 40 hours per week for 52 weeks, per adult. 

Families with one child are assumed to have a ‘young child’ (4 years old). Families with two children are assumed to have a ‘young child’ and a ‘child’ (9 years old). Families with three children are assumed to have a ‘young child’, a ‘child’, and a ‘teenager’ (15 years old).


For a more detailed description of the methodology used, please see the technical documentation here.

*These figures are for a family of four with two working adults.

Birmingham, Al                                   $64,563

Los Angeles, CA                                   $85,154

Fort Collins, CO.                                   $73,798

Sarasota, FL                                          $67,563

Phoenix, AZ                                          $71,593

Boise City, ID                                        $67,225

Des Moines, IA                                    $65,228

Waco, TX                                             $60,028

Knoxville, TN                                      $59,987

Spokane, WA                                      $65,228

Minneapolis, MN                               $73,382

Omaha, NE                                          $66,851

     *If you read the “About the Living Wage Calculator” These figures do not include restaurant meals, entertainment, vacations, or savings.