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Why the optimal minimum wage in the US is at least $12 an hour


November 23, 2022

Campaigns for a $15 hourly minimum wage have cropped up around the US over the past decade. But only California has set a statewide wage floor at that amount, at companies with 26 or more employees. Elsewhere, about a dozen US metro areas offer minimum wages of $15 or higher, including Denver, New York City, Seattle, and Washington DC.

Even a $15 wage, in an era of rising inflation and housing costs, is arguably too modest for American households. Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities suggests that “[a] true living wage that supports a basic standard of living without food and housing insecurity would be between $20.00 and $26.00 or more per hour depending on the state.”

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