Not too long ago, there was chart that went viral showing how many hours one would have to work in each state earning minimum wage to be able to rent a two-bedroom apartment. In Indiana, the number was in the seventies. But our state was actually on the low side, as several states required more than the equivalent of two or even three 40-hour workweeks.

That made the point of how minimum wage workers can afford very few luxuries. What it doesn’t illustrate is how difficult it is to simply live on minimum wage.

According to MIT, a living wage (meaning it covers all regular expenses) for a single person living alone in Indiana is $8.44 an hour. The state’s minimum wage is at the federal level of $7.25 an hour. The rate where they’d be considered below the poverty line is lower than that. However, the living and poverty wages increase as more people enter the picture. Basically, if there are any more than two people living together, the minimum wage is below the poverty wage.

President Obama’s proposed increase would bring the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. In this scenario, an Indiana resident living alone would now have a living wage, and most households with two adults working minimum wage could theoretically double their income to a livable level. However, a single parent with even one kid would still be below the livable wage. Plus, anyone with kids knows how hard it is to have both parents working.

The model doesn’t take into account life’s little caveats like this and others. For example, the calculation for a single-person household sets aside $306 a month on transportation. In real life, one month you might only pay for gas, then the next month your car might need expensive maintenance. Same with medical spending: you might not get sick one month then unexpectedly suffer a serious illness or injury the next, costing more than the $135 per month the model estimates.

Indiana’s poverty rate is over 14 percent. Even at $10.10, the minimum wage probably still won’t lift them out of it. But to those who work for minimum wage and have to watch every cent they make, even less than an extra three bucks an hour would make a difference. If the federal government doesn’t raise the minimum wage, Indiana should.


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