Plenty of big cities still fall under the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which isn’t a living wage for the majority of people in the U.S. So where can you live on minimum wage and still have a comfortable, affordable life? What are the most livable cities for minimum wage earners and what are the least livable cities for minimum wage earners?
The researchers at Move.org ranked the 75 biggest cities in the US by how many hours it would take to afford a one-bedroom apartment while making minimum wage. This doesn’t include all the other cost of living factors, but it does show where even paying rent on a single minimum wage job won’t work (if you’re planning on renting alone).
The average minimum wage in these 75 cities is $10.40 per hour, but the average one-bedroom apartment rent is $1,040 per month—that means rent in most big cities requires over 60% of monthly gross minimum wage income, which doesn’t include taxes.
You should be wary of places with a current federal minimum of $7.25 per hour and high rent—they’re likely unaffordable. Unless you have some housemates who can help cover the bills, or you’re going to work multiple jobs, you may want to consider moving to a nearby surrounding city or town with lower costs.
The worst cities for a single-bedroom renter living on minimum wage
• Atlanta is the worst city to work and live as a minimum wage earner. You’d have to work over 177 hours in a month to live in a single-bedroom apartment in Georgia’s capital.
• Dallas has the ninth biggest population in the US, but it’s the sixth-worst city for minimum wage earners.
• Irvine, California has the highest rent at $2,026 a month. Despite its higher minimum wage pay, it’s still too pricey to rent.
• Texas and North Carolina both have three big cities where the rent is far higher than minimum wage earners should try to afford on their own.
Most livable cities for a single-bedroom renter living on minimum wage
• You can still live in sunny California and make a living wage: both Bakersfield and Stockton ranked in the top 10 best cities for minimum wage earners.
• Out of all the cities with over a million people, Chicago is one of the best for livable wage earners. Phoenix, Arizona came in close at 14th best for minimum wage earners.
These days, living alone in a single-bedroom apartment in a bigger city may seem like a distant dream. However, two cities still (theoretically) allow minimum wage earners to only work one job and live there affordably: Bakersfield, California and Tucson, Arizona.
Increasing the federal minimum wage could help millions afford comfortable living, but for now it’s best for workers making minimum wage to try to find an affordable place outside the big city expenses.