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What You Can Rent on a Minimum Wage Salary in Every State

John Csiszar

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law, which introduced the minimum wage at 25 cents per hour. While always controversial, the issue has become a political hot button in recent years, as various sides argue over whether or not people can truly live on the minimum wage.

To cut through all the noise, GOBankingRates conducted a study to analyze just how much money minimum wage earners make on a state-by-state basis, and how much square footage a person can afford to rent while earning the minimum wage, using data from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Overall, the results of the study are eye-opening. The minimum wage doesn’t amount to a living wage in any state in America — it’s actually insufficient to meet basic human needs. Allocating a minimum wage salary to recommended spending percentages on necessities such as housing, groceries, transportation and utilities leaves earners with a deficit in all 50 states.

Additionally, the highest annual income that you can earn on the minimum wage is $24,960, in Massachusetts and Washington. This amounts to about half of the average income in the U.S. In a whopping 21 states, you’ll only earn about $15,000 per year on the minimum wage — which allows for less than $80 per month for groceries.

The square footage afforded to the average American earning the minimum wage is also abysmal, although the housing situation is slightly better in some states than others. In the top-ranked state in GOBankingRates’ study, for example, nearly 311 square feet is available for a minimum wage earner. By the time you get to the state that’s ranked last, however, minimum wage earners can only rent 110 square feet of living space, even on a relatively high minimum wage.

Translated to real-world experience, it is clear from the study that it’s a serious struggle to survive in the U.S. while only earning the minimum wage. Yet, plenty of Americans are forced to do just that, so it’s important to implement coping strategies in any way possible. Some of these options are discussed after the state-by-state breakdown of the study results, which could help minimum wage earners find additional ways to save money on monthly expenses and bills.

Last updated: Oct. 8, 2019

1. Arkansas

  • Minimum hourly wage: $9.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $19,240
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $314.31
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 310.91
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 821.14
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 1231.71

2. West Virginia

  • Minimum hourly wage: $8.75
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $18,200
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $297.32
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 297.99
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 751.29
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 1126.94

3. South Dakota

  • Minimum hourly wage: $9.10
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $18,928
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $309.22
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 292.13
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 685.95
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 1028.92

4. Nebraska

  • Minimum hourly wage: $9
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $18,720
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $305.82
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 273.6
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 598.33
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 897.49

5. Michigan

  • Minimum hourly wage: $9.45
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $19,656
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $321.11
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 256.57
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 646.63
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 969.94

6. North Dakota

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 245.84
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 588.51
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 882.77

7. Arizona

  • Minimum hourly wage: $11
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $22,880
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $373.78
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 241.55
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 650.77
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 976.15

8. Wyoming

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 241.36
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 553.56
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 830.34

9. Ohio

  • Minimum hourly wage: $8.55
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $17,784
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $290.53
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 239.86
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 658.21
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 987.32

10. Oklahoma

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 239.67
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 607.22
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 910.83

11. Mississippi

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 238.53
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 606.11
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 909.16

12. Missouri

  • Minimum hourly wage: $8.60
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $17,888
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $292.23
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 234.53
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 647.35
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 971.03

13. Montana

  • Minimum hourly wage: $8.50
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $17,680
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $288.83
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 230.52
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 540.21
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 810.31

14. Alaska

  • Minimum hourly wage: $9.89
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $20,571.20
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $336.06
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 223.17
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 575.42
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 863.13

15. Kansas

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 222.69
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 560.78
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 841.16

16. Kentucky

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 216.13
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 557.23
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 835.84

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17. Maine

  • Minimum hourly wage: $11
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $22,880
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $373.78
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 213.22
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 571.81
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 857.72

18. Alabama

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 208.33
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 648.63
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 972.94

19. New Mexico

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.50
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,600
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $254.85
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 207.82
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 586.07
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 879.1

20. Iowa

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 205.33
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 515.22
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 772.83

21. Vermont

  • Minimum hourly wage: $10.78
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $22,422.40
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $366.30
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 203.14
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 547.08
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 820.62

22. Indiana

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 201.31
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 582.26
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 873.39

23. Delaware

  • Minimum hourly wage: $8.75
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $18,200
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $297.32
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 198.05
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 601.5
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 902.25

24. Rhode Island

  • Minimum hourly wage: $10.50
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $21,840
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $356.79
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 192.66
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 492.87
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 739.31

25. Nevada

  • Minimum hourly wage: $8.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $17,160
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $280.33
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 191.97
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 566.44
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 849.66

26. Minnesota

  • Minimum hourly wage: $9.86
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $20,508.80
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $335.04
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 191.55
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 530.86
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 796.28

27. Colorado

  • Minimum hourly wage: $11.10
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $23,088
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $377.17
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 188.35
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 500.64
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 750.96

28. Louisiana

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 184.34
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 540.25
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 810.37

29. Connecticut

  • Minimum hourly wage: $10.10
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $21,008
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $343.20
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 184.02
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 533.06
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 799.6

30. Oregon

  • Minimum hourly wage: $11.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $23,400
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $382.27
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 182.89
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 610.62
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 915.93

31. Idaho

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 178.95
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 491.86
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 737.79

32. Wisconsin

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 169.43
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 484.93
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 727.39

33. Maryland

  • Minimum hourly wage: $10.10
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $21,008
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $343.20
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 168.24
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 491.39
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 737.08

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34. South Carolina

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 168.03
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 507.91
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 761.86

35. North Carolina

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 159.76
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 538.39
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 807.59

36. Utah

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 156.28
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 462.11
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 693.16

37. Washington

  • Minimum hourly wage: $12
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $24,960
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $407.76
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 154.84
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 583.09
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 874.64

38. Tennessee

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 154.36
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 555.04
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 832.56

39. Texas

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 151.37
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 492.66
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 739

40. Florida

  • Minimum hourly wage: $8.46
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $17,596.80
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $287.47
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 151.36
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 463.76
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 695.64

41. Pennsylvania

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 138.58
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 452.72
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 679.08

42. Georgia

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 138.41
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 544.27
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 816.4

43. New Jersey

  • Minimum hourly wage: $10
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $20,800
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $339.80
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 133.97
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 399.59
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 599.38

44. Illinois

  • Minimum hourly wage: $8.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $17,160
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $280.33
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 127.55
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 396.78
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 595.17

45. New Hampshire

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 126.73
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 415.1
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 622.65

46. New York

  • Minimum hourly wage: $11.10
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $23,088
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $377.17
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 126.53
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 344.7
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 517.05

47. California

  • Minimum hourly wage: $11
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $22,880
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $373.78
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 123.12
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 384
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 576.01

48. Massachusetts

  • Minimum hourly wage: $12
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $24,960
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $407.76
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 120.93
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 336.62
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 504.93

49. Virginia

  • Minimum hourly wage: $7.25
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $15,080
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $246.35
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 116.17
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 426.56
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 639.83

50. Hawaii

  • Minimum hourly wage: $10.10
  • Annual income on the minimum wage: $21,008
  • Monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage: $343.20
  • Square footage 1 minimum wage worker can afford: 110.48
  • Square footage 2 minimum wage workers can afford: 320.72
  • Square footage 3 minimum wage workers can afford: 481.07

How To Survive on a Minimum Wage Salary

Overall, the results of the study are grim. When the minimum wage is held up against the cost of living in all 50 states, there’s not a single state in America where the minimum wage would cover a person’s living necessities. In this real-world scenario that many Americans face, at least one of two things must happen: Either your income has to increase, or the cost of living needs to be shared.

Here are some options that could help minimum wage earners get by:

  • Get more roommates. One of the easiest ways to share expenses is to find additional roommates. When you can divide rent, utilities and even transportation costs among more people, the per-person cost will drop. Sharing living space may not be ideal for everyone, but for some, it can offer social benefits in addition to helping cut expenses.
  • Take on an additional job. Minimum wage jobs may not pay much, but they are often readily available. If you have the time and energy, taking on additional work can increase your net income and make life more affordable. If that’s not an option, ask your manager if there are any career paths toward higher-paying jobs, such as a management training program. You can also look outside of your current job and apply for higher-paying positions, which would allow you to earn more income while working the same number of hours.
  • Lower your expenses. The expenses as presented in GOBankingRates’ study are statewide averages. So, if you manage to find better deals or cut certain nonnecessities from your lifestyle, you may be able to cover more of your overall costs. For example, utility costs include cable bills. If you can switch providers to secure a lower rate or drop cable altogether, your utility costs will drop. Similarly, switching to a lower-cost supermarket or substituting free community events for expensive nights out can help trim your expenses.

There’s no easy answer to the struggle that comes from surviving on the minimum wage. However, you might be able to balance out the scales — and achieve a living wage — by finding some combination of increased income or lower expenses.

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: In order to find out what you can rent on a minimum wage salary in every state, GOBankingRates first looked at each state’s (1) minimum wage, as sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor, which was then multiplied by 2,080 (i.e., 40 hours per week for 52 weeks) to give (2) the annual income you can earn on the minimum wage in each state, as well each state’s (3) 2019 median rent per square foot for a one-bedroom apartment and a three-bedroom apartment, as sourced from Zillow. GOBankingRates then found the percentage of annual income that the average American spends on housing for a single person, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey, which was then adjusted to each state’s annual income on the minimum wage to give (4) the annual/monthly rent you can afford on the minimum wage, plus the rent you can afford while living with two roommates who also make the minimum wage. Factor No. 4 was then divided by factor No. 3 to give (5) the square footage you can afford on the minimum wage, which was the determinant factor in the final ranking, with more square footage being best. How much you can afford for groceries, utilities, transportation and healthcare was also found using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey, which was then adjusted to each state’s annual income on the minimum wage. These figures were used for supplemental data, as well as how much square footage you can afford in a three-bedroom apartment while living with two other people who are also making the minimum wage. All data used to conduct this study was compiled and verified on Sept. 20, 2019.

Photos are for illustrative purposes only. As a result, the images may not reflect living spaces with the square footage listed in this article.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: What You Can Rent on a Minimum Wage Salary in Every State