Even where the minimum wage has risen significantly, it is not a living wage. That must change, not that it will on a national scale any time in the near future. A new report from the People’s Action Institute explores this:
In 42 states and in Washington, D.C., the living wage for a single adult is greater than $15 per hour, and in 26 states it exceeds $16 per hour. Nationally, the living wage for a single adult is closer to $17.28 an hour. When adding in repayment of student debt, the national living wage for a single adult rises to $18.67 per hour.
For families with children, the cost to make ends meet is even higher. In the 18 states and Washington, D.C. where a living wage for other family sizes was calculated, the living wage for a single adult with two children ranges from $26.39 in South Carolina to $41.11 in California, and $43.86 in Washington, D.C.
While 43 million people in the United States have student loan debt, the distribution and impact of that debt is not equal. Students of color and their families are more likely to take out student loans, and, while the average starting wage for those with a bachelor’s degree is enough to cover expenses including student debt, majors with more women and people of color see starting wages below the cost of living. And, because women and people of color are overrepresented in low-wage work due to underlying structural issues and discrimination, they are more likely to struggle to pay off student loans after graduation.
When workers aren’t paid enough to cover their cost of living, set aside some savings and pay their student debt, something has to give. That may mean foregoing payments on their student loans, or it might mean leaving the utility bill unpaid to put food on the table.
Unfortunately, the response of some voters to place a plutocrat fascist in the White House are just going to make all of this worse in the New Gilded Age.