Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website   Read more about this blog.
Posted: May 15th, 2012
Minimum wage earners fight losing battle

MSNBC ran a perspective story the other day, which I found compelling. Back in 1950, if you made minimum wage, you would have had to work 56 hours to pay the average rent. Of course, minimum wage was 75 cents an hour, but gas was only 29 cents a gallon and my father bought the house I grew up in for $20,000.

Today, with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, you will have to work almost double the amount of time–109 hours–to make your rent. Gas is now almost $4 a gallon and the cost of living has exponentially grown beyond predicted levels, with the cost of owning and maintaining your own home having skyrocketed since then.

Right out of college, I waited tables for about a year while I searched for work. I recall making about $2 an hour because our employer was exempt from having to pay us the then-minimum wage of $3.10 because we made tips. Working the lunch shift at the pancake house left me pretty lean financially. It was then it hit me just how much I would have to earn in order to be able to support myself. Talk about a bucket of cold water to the face.

That said, I don’t know how you can make ends meet much less raise a family, making only minimum wage, but apparently, over 76 million Americans do.

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One comment on “Minimum wage earners fight losing battle

  1. Phil on said:

    That $20,000 house in 1950 cost 26,667 hours of 75-cent minimum-wage labor. If you had the same 26,667 hours of minimum-wage labor to spend on a house today, you could buy a $193,000 house — that’s probably a pretty nice house.

    Gas is another story — according to the numbers in the article, in 1950 an hour of minimum-wage labor bought 2.6 gallons of gas, as opposed to 1.8 gallons today. So gas costs more — you used to get about 3 more quarts of gas per hour of minimum-wage labor — but it hasn’t come close to doubling in cost like rent has.

    Maybe the point is that rent has gotten more expensive than other things, not that minimum wage hasn’t kept up.

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