Can minimum wage workers afford to buy a house?

In a new study by, researchers put a price tag on the formidable obstacles minimum wage workers face to afford a home across the U.S. The analysis compares Zillow home prices over the past year to minimum wages in every state.

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“The findings are a sobering reminder of the financial hurdles that low-income earners face in achieving the American Dream of homeownership,” said Jon McDonald, Senior Editor at “While we’re seeing increases in minimum wage, such as the recent rise for California’s fast food workers, these steps are often insufficient to bridge the gap in high-cost housing markets.”

States Where Minimum-Wage Workers Can Afford a Down Payment the Fastest and Slowest

Key Findings:

  • If they started saving 10% of their paycheck at age 18, workers could afford an 8% down payment in roughly 23.1 years at age 41. That’s 4,809 hours of work.
  • Salaried workers making the U.S. median income achieve the same milestone in just 5.1 years.

Where is it Least Feasible for Minimum Wage Workers to Own a Home?

  • Utah: It takes 34.1 years to afford a down payment, the longest time of any state. On their median income, the same goal is met in 6.5 years.
  • New Hampshire: Minimum wage workers can afford a down payment in 29.9 years.
  • In 10 other states, including North Carolina and Texas, it would take minimum wage workers more than two decades. Hawaii, Montana, and California are the only three to make this list with minimum wages above the federal wage ($7.25) due to their comparatively high housing costs.

The April increase in CA brings renewed attention to wage sufficiency in high-cost states. While this provides relief, the study indicates that even at an elevated wage, affording a home remains a distant goal for many.

Where is it Most Feasible for Minimum Wage Workers to Own a Home?

The American dream is more realistic in these states:

  • Illinois: Minimum-wage workers could save in 8.6 years.
  • In West VirginiaArkansas, and Missouri workers can save for a down payment in less than 10 years.


When looking at the issue of “can minimum wage workers afford a house,” researchers scraped median single-family residence and condo home values on Zillow over 12 months, comparing them to the minimum wage in every state, according to the Department of Labor. They assumed an 8% down payment (typical for first-time homebuyers per the National Association of Realtors®) and a savings rate of 10% of total income while working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, to calculate the years someone would need to save the down payment amount.