In early April, governor of California Jerry Brown signed legislation to push for a statewide minimum wage of $15 per hour. While McDonalds is one of my better options after graduating from MHS, does a rising minimum wage really help me? Do Americans need a higher federal and statewide minimum wage? In reality, there is a stark difference between a minimum wage and the wage people need for living conditions.
A minimum wage is meant to be a living wage, which is when an individual earn a certain amount of money needed for, at the very least, the basic necessities of life. Minimum wage should work to protect workers from employees who would otherwise force a lower salary. Therefore, it is necessary to increase the minimum wage in order to maintain the minimum living standards and protect against poverty.
That being said, a rise in minimum wage does not represent the welfare of everyone. Massachusetts Institute of Technology found the living wage of one adult in San Francisco to be $14.37. This makes a statewide minimum wage of $15 per hour seem reasonable, but a more rural area of California such as Yolo county has its living wage at $11.53. Legislators don’t account for the disparity between those who need and may not need a higher minimum wage in order to live. The same thing can be seen with states. On average, the living wage in California is $12.34 per hour, while a state such as Nebraska only necessitates $9.73. It brings to perspective the differences states might have based on its economic activity or geographical location.
The issue with minimum wages is whether it reflects the living wage. The minimum wage in any place should be the same as the living wage. In reality, many states have their minimum wages fall below their actual living wages. The problem isn’t raising the national minimum wage to $15, or to even $20. The problem is meeting the living wage of different places, which the minimum wage does not largely cover.
Does that mean I actually support minimum wage? Of course I do, but at the same time, no. In my opinion, the minimum wage should match the living wage, and in turn a living wage should be enough to support one person. Other advocates may disagree, but the purpose of a minimum wage should be to support the livelihood the individual working, not a family. Parents may be frustrated, since pay may not match a family’s overall living wage.
Even with a higher minimum wage, the difference between the living wage of one adult and the living wage of an adult with a child is like heaven and the Big Bang theory. To put it in perspective, the living wage in Los Angeles County would move from $12.44 to $25.72. An increased minimum wage to $15 does not come close to supporting one child, much less two more.
Of course, more money wouldn’t be too bad for the seniors graduating and about to enter the workforce or find a part-time job. But there should be a clear division between the minimum wage now, the living wage needed, and the added living wage needed for the caring of children or other people. We can dream for better days, but the increasing the minimum wage should at least become a living wage. Otherwise, it really is just the minimum.