Living Wages vs. Minimum Wages

Last night I was reading a discussion on FlyerTalk that raised the question of whether hotel housekeeping staff should be expected. This discussion has turned into a big question of minimum wage versus living wage. This discussion reminds me of two assets that I have highlighted in the past that help students understand why the minimum wage and the living wage are not almost the same thing.

Living Wage Calculator is a great resource hosted by MIT. The Living Wage Calculator displays the current minimum wage and living wage in all fifty U.S. states, counties in each state, and the largest metropolitan area in each state. Information is provided based on individuals and families. For example, in my county, the minimum wage for a single person is .9 16.97 / hour, compared to $ 12.75 whereas for a family of four working adults, the living wage is $ 24.04 / hour versus the minimum wage of $ 12.75 / hour. To support these calculations, the Living Wage Calculator includes a corresponding table of general costs for each given position. These costs include taxes, housing, transportation, childcare and food.

Life on Minimum Wage (link opens a Google Doc) is an activity I created almost thirteen years ago to help my civics students understand how difficult it is to save money when your only job (s) pays the minimum wage without benefits. To win Life at the minimum wage Students need to reach the five financial goals that they choose. In order to earn money, students have to complete their assigned assignments. Students will then need to pay the required bills before using the money for their chosen financial goals. As the game progresses, students will be given “surprise” cards for which they will have to spend money on things like quick tickets, trips to health clinics, and fare increases. The minimum wage includes all the work of life so that if one business reduces production or shuts down, the workers of other businesses are also affected. The goal here is to show the impact of business closure on the economy of a small town.

Important note before using this activity:
I have not adjusted this activity for inflation since 2009. You probably want to do this.

Before you email me about the Browning Rifle Goal Cards, please understand that these were targets chosen by my students in the rural community where hunting is often a family tradition. You are welcome to change that card for use in your own classroom

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