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Living Wage data in the U.S. — A State-by-State Analysis

Introduction

The concept of a living wage is not just a number; it’s a reflection of the economic health of a region and the quality of life it can offer to its residents. Understanding the living wage can serve multiple purposes:

  • Job Seekers: It can guide individuals in making informed decisions about where to live and work.
  • Employers: It can help companies set competitive salaries to attract talent.
  • Policy Makers: It provides crucial data for setting minimum wages and social welfare programs.
  • General Public: It offers a snapshot of economic disparities across states.

In this article, we’ll delve into the annual living wage for a single person in each U.S. state, grouped by wage range, to provide a comprehensive view of how living costs vary across the country.

High Living Wage States

States like Hawaii, Massachusetts, California, New York, and Alaska fall under the high living wage category. For instance, a single person living in Hawaii would need an annual income of $112,411 to meet basic needs.

Factors Contributing to High Living Wages

  • Hawaii: High cost of importing goods and limited land for housing contribute to its high living wage.
  • Massachusetts: The presence of numerous prestigious educational institutions and tech companies drives up the cost of living.
  • California: High property values, especially in tech hubs like Silicon Valley, and a high state income tax contribute to a higher living wage.
  • New York: The cost of living in NYC significantly skews the state’s average, with high rent and transportation costs.
  • Alaska: The remote location and extreme weather conditions make everyday goods and services more expensive.

Moderate Living Wage States

The moderate living wage states include Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. In these states, the annual living wage ranges from $56,571 in Delaware to $65,923 in Vermont. These states offer a balanced lifestyle with moderate living costs.

Low Living Wage States

States like Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming fall under the low living wage category. For example, a single person in Mississippi would need an annual income of $45,906 to meet basic needs. These states are generally more affordable but may offer fewer amenities and opportunities.

Key Takeaways

  • Regional Differences: The living wage varies significantly from state to state, often due to regional differences in the cost of living.
  • Career Choices: The living wage data can be a useful tool for job seekers to decide where to live and work.
  • Policy Implications: Understanding the living wage is crucial for policymakers to set minimum wages and social welfare programs effectively.

Conclusion

Understanding the living wage across different states provides valuable insights into the economic conditions of the country. It’s not just about numbers; it’s about the quality of life, opportunities, and the choices available to individuals in different states.

Living Wage by Range

High Living WageModerate Living WageLow Living Wage
Hawaii: $112,411Arizona: $60,026Alabama: $46,577
Massachusetts: $87,909Colorado: $59,218Arkansas: $47,111
California: $80,013Connecticut: $63,078Georgia: $49,051
New York: $73,226Delaware: $56,571Idaho: $58,634
Alaska: $71,570Florida: $57,064Illinois: $49,372
Maine: $60,862Indiana: $49,855
Maryland: $67,915Iowa: $48,518
New Hampshire: $62,935Kansas: $47,379
New Jersey: $64,463Kentucky: $47,318
Oregon: $65,763Louisiana: $50,087
Rhode Island: $59,936Michigan: $50,049
Vermont: $65,923Minnesota: $51,668
Washington: $65,640Mississippi: $45,906
Missouri: $47,771
Montana: $57,056
Nebraska: $49,009
Nevada: $58,580
New Mexico: $51,214
North Carolina: $53,531
North Dakota: $52,807
Ohio: $50,157
Oklahoma: $46,024
Pennsylvania: $53,838
South Carolina: $52,222
South Dakota: $52,095
Tennessee: $48,774
Texas: $50,497
Utah: $55,293
Virginia: $57,293
West Virginia: $47,732
Wisconsin: $53,122
Wyoming: $49,666
The salary a single person needs to live in U.S. states

Data source – Year 2023

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