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How much a $15 minimum wage is worth in different states and cities


Raising the minimum wage has been a big topic of debate at the city, state, and federal level over the years, with activists and politicians setting a $15 hourly wage as a target benchmark. The value of $15, however, varies depending on an area’s cost of living. 

Florida voters went to the polls on November 3 and resoundingly backed a minimum wage of $15. Almost 61% of voters supported the referendum, which will be phased in over the next few years until it reaches the full $15 per hour in 2026.

President-elect Joe Biden also supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15. The last increase in the nationwide minimum was on July 24, 2009, increasing from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour.

Supporters of this higher minimum wage believe it will help people earn a living wage and get out of poverty. The Florida Policy Institute wrote in a press release on Election Day that the $15 minimum wage in the state would “reduce historical pay inequities experienced by women and people of color and increase the income of more than 1 in 4 Florida workers.”

However, some are wary of what a minimum wage increase could mean for employment and costs to businesses. A study by economists at Miami University and Trinity University in part, which the paper notes was “prepared with support from Save Florida Jobs, Inc”, found that the state will lose 158,000 jobs by 2026 as a result of the minimum wage increase. The economists used a similar method to a Congressional Budget Office study that estimated a $15 federal minimum wage would help 1.3 million Americans get out of poverty but also would mean 1.3 million job cuts.

Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told Business Insider that some businesses might also be against a $15 minimum wage because of concerns of higher prices or lower profits. Baker said previous research shows that places that already raised the minimum wage “substantially” saw little job loss.

A raise in the minimum wage doesn’t just affect those making this amount but can also boost those already earning slightly higher pay, according to Baker. This is because businesses will likely also have to raise pay for workers whose wages are a bit higher than the minimum.

Similarly, the CBO study found a $15 minimum wage would could also mean an increase in pay for 10 million people who already earn slightly more than this hourly wage. David Cooper, senior economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, noted that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would lift the pay of 40 million workers and help some people make enough to get out of poverty.

There is no clear answer whether a higher minimum wage has more benefits or consequences, with business anecdotes and academic studies highlighting different outcomes for businesses, workers, and families.

The value of a $15 per hour minimum wage

The value of $15 varies throughout the US because some places have a higher cost of living. For instance, Hawaii is the most expensive place to live, followed by New York and the District of Columbia. Business Insider decided to look at how much $15 nationally is worth in Florida and other places that have already approved this level.

In regards to whether the minimum wage should vary depending on how expensive it is to live in a particular state or city Baker said, “that leads myself and many other economists to think, okay, we want a good federal floor and then states could raise it above that, where they have a cost of living that would warrant that and cities within states could do that.” 

Using 2018 regional price parities, which compare the buying power of a dollar, or the cost of living in different states and metro areas across the nation, from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, we looked at the purchasing power in places that have recently passed minimum wage increases. That is, we looked at how much $15 at the national average can get you in the eight states and select cities that have already approved a $15 minimum wage.

The following is a look at the value of $15 in these places, along with where the minimum wage currently stands. 

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