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Even a raised minimum wage in Austin wouldn't cut it, study says

Workers fight for a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2016. (Fibonacci Blue)

Austin is one of the 25 least affordable U.S. cities for minimum wage workers—even if the minimum wage was bumped up to $15/hour, according to a study by movebuddha.com.


Living in Austin costs more than the $2,400/month income of full-time $15/hour employees and that's without adding to a savings account. Alongside Plano, the 13th least affordable city studied, Austin is also one of the only cities on the most expensive end to not have a local minimum wage higher than $7.25/hour.

The study analyzed 99 cities, all with a population of more than 250,000, and factored in average costs toward rent, utilities, income taxes, transportation and food. The study does not take car expenses, phone bills, loans, insurance or property taxes into account.

With rent skyrocketing to record median price levels month-after-month and a booming housing market, it's no surprise that Austin is around a thousand dollars more expensive a month than the cheapest U.S. city on the list—Albuquerque, New Mexico. In Laredo, Texas' least expensive city studied, residents can pocket as much as $774 after paying for living costs.

Move Buddha ranked the 25 most and least affordable cities for $15/hour wage workers, with Austin at No. 22 on the list. (moveBuddha.com)


With the average rent in Austin at a record $1,442 a month (60% of a $15/hour workers' income), Austin joins the growing ranks of U.S. cities that can no longer follow the "minimum wage should be a living wage" mantra championed by worker's rights groups.

Austin's rapid-fire growth is still far from the six most expensive cities, all of which are in California. All but $39 of a minimum wage worker's salary in Irvine, which tops the list, would have to go toward rent. Unsurprisingly, San Jose, San Francisco, San Diego, Anaheim and Chula Vista follow suit.

But many cities and states on the list have already instituted wages near what the fight for $15 movement has been working toward for years. In California, which constitutes 11 of the 25 most expensive cities studied, the state minimum wage sits at $14/hour, and San Francisco's minimum wage is elevated to $16.32/hour. Seattle and New York have similar heightened wage rates.

Just as a federal minimum wage of $15/hour slowly edges closer to reality, it becomes more evident that living on that wage alone isn't feasible in many U.S. cities. According to a Harvard University study, a quarter of U.S. renters now spend 50% or more of their salary on rent. That's well above the recommended budget, which puts rent at a third of monthly costs.

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