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SD's 2020 Minimum-Wage Hike Falls Short of 'Livable'

South Dakota's median household income of $56,521 was $3,800 lower than the median U.S. household income in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (commondreams.org)
South Dakota's median household income of $56,521 was $3,800 lower than the median U.S. household income in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (commondreams.org)
November 27, 2019

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Starting on Jan. 1, South Dakota's minimum wage will increase 20 cents - from $9.10 to $9.30 an hour. At the same time, research shows that in almost every state, a worker now needs to earn more than $15 an hour to make ends meet.

Amy Glasmeier, a professor of economic geography and regional planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developed a Living Wage Calculator. She said the tool uses specific data for each region and county to estimate the costs of food, child care, health care, housing, transportation and other necessities.

"Ninety-seven percent of Americans could not live on the minimum wage," she said. "There's very few places in the country where people could live on the minimum wage and be able to cover their basic costs."

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Glasmeier said three-quarters of the U.S. population lives in counties where the average state minimum wage is about $2.50 more than the federal minimum.

In South Dakota, agriculture is the number one industry, and Glasmeier said the U.S.-China trade war combined with weather extremes due to climate change have been a drag on wages for farmers and others employed in the ag industry. She said people earning the minimum wage constantly are forced to juggle which bills to pay.

"Doesn't matter where they live," she said, "they have to make choices about 'paying my utility bill this month, or a portion of my utility bill this month,' 'I can't afford to fix my car this month.' So, the minimum wage does not allow people to have any sort of economic security."

Glasmeier said people who are single and caring for a child have the most difficulty surviving on the minimum wage "because they have expenses that one person is bearing for two people, and there's institutional infrastructure - such as child care - that they need, that they may not be able to afford."

States with the highest minimum wage include California, Massachusetts and Washington at $12 per hour.

The Living Wage Calculator is online at livingwage.mit.edu.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD