Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
In this June 2, 2014 photo, Wendy Harrison, a waitress at the icon Grill in Seattle, carries food to a table as she works during lunchtime. An Associated Press comparison of the cost of living at several other major U.S. cities found that a $15 minimum wage, like Seattle adopted this week, will make a difference, but won’t buy a lavish lifestyle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
$15 minimum wage permits few luxuries in U.S. cities
First Published Jun 03 2014 02:52 pm • Last Updated Jun 03 2014 02:52 pm

Seattle • A $15 minimum wage like the one adopted in Seattle doesn’t buy many luxuries in most American cities.

Lattes, theater tickets and cable television will still be out of reach for most minimum-wage workers. But about $31,000 a year should be enough to pay the average rent for a shared one-bedroom apartment, plus utilities, health insurance, groceries and an inexpensive cellphone plan.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Monday’s vote by the Seattle City Council created the nation’s highest minimum wage. The state minimum wage in Washington was already $9.32 an hour, the highest state wage in the U.S.

Expatistan, a website that tracks the cost of living in cities around the world, says New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Honolulu, Boston and Seattle are the most expensive U.S. cities overall, in that order.

In Seattle, a gallon of milk averages about $3.60, a gallon of gas $3.94, a ride on the bus $2.50. A 16-ounce latte at Starbucks is $3.35 and a pint of local beer $4.50. A typical one-bedroom apartment rents for $1,400.

Seattle’s wage is set to begin climbing in April 2015, with many workers reaching $11 an hour next year. That will surpass San Francisco’s minimum wage, which at $10.55 an hour is currently the highest of any American city.

An Associated Press comparison of the cost of living in several other major U.S. cities shows a higher wage would make a difference in those places too, but it won’t allow for many extras.



New York’s minimum wage is $8, and the median Manhattan rent is $3,420, according to a recent report, so multiple roommates would be required to get by on a yearly minimum-wage salary of $16,640.

story continues below
story continues below

The other costs of living in New York are steep. A large coffee at Starbucks is about $2.45, a foot-long sandwich at Subway is $6.90. A gallon of milk is just over $4, a gallon of gas $3.93, a ride on the subway $2.50. The average taxi fare is a bit over $15.

New York’s minimum wage, which is set by the state, is slated to rise to $8.75 on Dec. 31 and then $9 at the end of next year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has recently opened the door to let cities set their own minimum wage at 30 percent higher than the $10.10 proposed by President Barack Obama, which could mean a $13 wage in New York’s future.



Miami’s minimum wage has been $7.93 since January and is adjusted annually. The city’s Consumer Price Index has gone up by 2 percent over the last year as the region recovers from the housing market collapse of eight years ago.

Regular gas in Miami costs about $3.50 a gallon, a basic bus ride $2.25, milk about $4 a gallon and a quality sub is about $8. A large coffee is about $3. Cab fares are $2.50 for the first sixth of a mile and then 40 cents per sixth of a mile. Because of the hurricane danger, property insurance can be double or triple the rates in other parts of the country, if not more.



Chicago community activists and labor groups are pushing for the city to follow Seattle’s lead on the minimum wage. At the ballot box in March, Chicago voters backed a $15 minimum wage in an advisory referendum.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has formed a task force to study the issue, and a group of city council members have already proposed an ordinance to phase in a $15 wage.

The city does not currently have a set minimum wage separate from the state’s current level of $8.25, which has been in place since 2011.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.