Housing Costs Out of Reach for Wisconsin Workers Earning Minimum Wage
A worker in Wisconsin needs to earn more than twice the minimum wage to afford a typically-priced two-bedroom apartment, a new study has found. Wisconsin workers need to earn $14.76 an hour in order to afford the rent for a two-bedroom apartment. The state’s minimum wage is $7.25.
In some cities in Wisconsin, the hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment is even higher. For example, in Kenosha, an hourly wage of $18.65 is needed to afford a typically-priced two-bedroom apartment. That means even two minimum-wage workers in Kenosha who work full time the whole year could not rent a two-bedroom apartment without having housing costs exceed 30% of their income. Other metropolitan areas in Wisconsin including Madison, Milwaukee-Waukesha, and Janesville, have housing costs that require an hourly wage that exceeds twice the minimum wage of $7.25/hour.
Unlike housing costs, the minimum wage has been frozen since 2009. That means that as rents go up, workers earning the lowest wages have increasing difficulty making ends meet. Unfortunately, there is little relief in sight — a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 at the federal level has stalled, and the Wisconsin legislature has shown little interest in passing a long-overdue increase in the minimum wage.
That’s unfortunate, because increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 would have widespread benefits in the state and would give a raise to one out of five Wisconsin workers. The vast majority of people who would get a raise are adults – eight out of ten workers who would be affected in Wisconsin are over the age of 20. Raising the minimum wage would boost the bottom lines of 112,000 Wisconsin parents, helping families work their way to the middle class.
Wisconsin lawmakers haven’t taken action to raise the state’s minimum wage, but our neighbors to the west are taking a different path. Minnesota lawmakers have approved increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 over three years, and tying future increases to inflation. According to the StarTribune, “State officials estimate that the $9.50 base wage will put an additional $472 million in the pockets of Minnesota’s lowest-wage workers each year. Supporters say the increase in consumer spending is expected to help local businesses in communities across the state, and provide a secondary boost to Minnesota’s economy.”
Raising the minimum wage would help workers find affordable housing, lift Wisconsin families out of poverty, and increase the amount of income families have to spend at businesses in the state. It’s high time for an increase in the minimum wage in Wisconsin.