A properly functioning economy should allow any worker in it the ability to afford basic living necessities. However, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)’s annual report for 2018 reveals the stark reality faced by low-income workers: minimum-wage earners cannot afford to rent in the U.S.
An economy where a person can work a full-time job but cannot afford as basic of a necessity as housing is not efficient.
According to NLIHC’s report, a person earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would be required to work 122 hours a week for all 52 weeks of the year to afford a two-bedroom home at the national average fair market rent of $1,149. This is the equivalent of working three full-time jobs.
According to a study conducted by Georgetown University in 2015, about 70 percent of college students also work while enrolled in school, with 25 percent being both full-time students and full-time employees. Students living in off-campus housing not only shoulder the burden of college expenses, but rental charges too, while earning less than what is required to cover both. Higher education is already a costly venture. Paying rent should not be.
The U.S. economic system fails its lowest earners if they run the risk of homelessness after inputting a 40-hour work week. Raising the minimum wage would be a decent start to curbing this issue, but even a bump to a $15 an hour income would still fall short of most states’ housing prices.
For example, the report states that a Florida worker would currently have to earn $21.50 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental home. As of Jan. 1, the minimum wage in Florida is $8.25 an hour, which is actually a raise from its previous $8.10, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
This elevated pay is insufficient to satisfy housing costs in Florida.
Minimum wage as it currently stands is not enough for low-income employees to actually “earn a living.” Significant, systemic change is required to ensure all workers — regardless of tax bracket — are able to live.
Even when people attempt to improve their income by pursuing education, these numbers still appear troublesome for college students. With most entry-level professions requiring a bachelor’s degree, it does not seem likely that Florida students would be earning an hourly $21.50 full-time while still enrolled as undergraduates.
Poverty is not a personal failure, especially when a person can work a full-time job and still need two others to afford housing. It is a deficiency of the economic system.
Not only does minimum wage need a significant raise, but housing costs need to be reduced as well. If housing authorities and businesses made a collaborative effort in reconciling this affordable housing crisis, low-income earners could manage the expenses of living in the U.S.