A full-time minimum-wage job can’t get you a 1-bedroom apartment anywhere in America

by Ezra Klein on May 28, 2015, read full article on VOX

There is no state in the union where a full-time, minimum-wage worker can afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment for less than 30 percent of his paycheck (which is a standard measure of housing affordability).

That’s the depressing takeaway from a new report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. The paper includes this map tallying the hours a worker would have to put in at her job each week to rent a one-bedroom apartment without it eating more than 30 percent of her wages:

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In Texas, a minimum wage worker needs to put in 73 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom unit. In California, it’s 92 hours. In the District of Columbia, it’s a solid 100 hours.

These are, of course, state averages. Rent will be more expensive in some cities — but those cities will often have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state. Sadly, as this chart from the report shows, the increase in rental prices tends to be much higher than the increase in the minimum wage:

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What that chart shows, basically, is that there’s almost no way for low-income workers to live in the cities where the best-paying jobs are. And so, often, they don’t. As Joseph Stromberg wrote in an excellent piece, being forced to live far from jobs is a key impediment to moving up the income ladder:

A Brookings Institution report found that the average resident of a US metro area can reach just 30 percent of the jobs in that area via a 90-minute or less transit ride …

A recent study led by Harvard’s Raj Chetty tracked 5 million children starting in the 1980s, considering how all sorts of factors relating to their neighborhoods (such as crime rates, schools, and levels of inequality) correlated with their odds of ascending to a higher income bracket than their parents. Among all these factors, “a neighborhood’s average commuting time was the strongest single correlation we found,” says Jamie Fogel, who worked on the study.

For much more data, read the National Low-Income Housing Foundation’s full report, which breaks down housing affordability not just by state, but by every county in every state.

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