Why A One-Size-Fits-All Minimum Wage Doesn’t Work For America

It seems to me that federally enforced on-size-fits-all minimum wage legislation is an ineffective way for policy makers to improve the standard of living for this country’s people.

I completely agree that something needs to be done. There are a thousand different ways we could improve the standard of living for the entire country. Simple and effective ways we could close the income gap between the richest and the poorest among us, but $10.10 an hour isn’t one of them. Frankly, it’s lazy policy making.

$10.10 an hour means different things in different parts of the country:

I think it is difficult for people in different parts of the country to understand what $10.10 an hour means to one another. Someone in New York City probably thinks that $10.10 an hour is slave wages while someone in Jackson, Mississippi (capital of MS) probably considers $10.10 an hour a livable wage. That is because the average cost of living varies wildly from region to region in the United States.

Average Cost of Living

Housing Prices Vary Wildly Across Major Cities: 

We can quickly compare median sales prices for homes across the country (source):

City Median Sale Price
Manhattan, NY $1,175,000
Jackson, MS $184,502
Seattle, WA $435,000
Atlanta, GA $245,000
San Francisco, CA $945,000

Gas Prices Vary Wildly Across Major Cities: 

We can quickly compare gas prices across the country (source)

City Regular Mid Premium Diesel
Manhattan, NY $4.052 $4.216 $4.354 $4.479
Jackson, MS $3.440 $3.642 $3.812 $3.737
Seattle, WA $4.035 $4.152 $4.255 4.109
Atlanta, GA $3.692 $3.871 $4.045 $3.893
San Francisco, CA $4.225 $4.342 $4.440 $4.291

Note: There are similar variances for food and clothing costs.

It is important to realize that these major variances are across major cities. If you compare rural areas to cities the variance is even more dramatic. So why does anyone expect a one-sized-fits-all minimum wage to work across the country?

The Solution: A Livable Wage that Fits

If we want to increase the minimum wage it seems like we need to make an effort to understand what that wage is in each part of country. We should not pick a number that everyone is expected to implement across the board. The country is to diverse for that to be successful.

What may be a fit for Seattle, WA would probably be overly burdensome to businesses in Jackson, MS. What may work in Jackson, MS would probably be insufficient in Manhattan, NY. So why do we treat wages the same when costs across the country are provably and undeniably different? This makes no sense to me.

Instead, it seems like we should empower our communities and local policy makers to actin the best interest of their constituents by providing the people living there with critical data and information to make better decisions for themselves. And if we are going to implement something federally (which I don’t think we should) – shouldn’t we at least make an effort to make it work for everyone?

We are a great country because of our diversity. There is something, somewhere, for everyone. We have always embraced that mantra. I don’t think we should stop now.

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4 thoughts on “Why A One-Size-Fits-All Minimum Wage Doesn’t Work For America

  1. Leisha Young

    It’s no different to any other country on Earth, America is no different. It seems to work pretty well everywhere else.

    What a fixed wage does allow people to do is budget properly with the surety that they will receive the same money next week as they did the previous week and will still be getting in 6 months time.

    People still have the choice to tip, but it’s for impeccable service rather than stock-standard service that you ‘have’ to tip.

    What this also means for the American consumer is that every time you enter a service establishment you know exactly how much that service will cost without having to think about tipping. So, people can budget better and they can also do that knowing how much things are going to cost them.

    IMO, diversity is a cheap argument.

    Reply
    1. Atticus C. Post author

      I think you missed my point. It was not diversity. My point was that a standard minimum wage (i.e., $10.10/hr) was the wrong thing to do. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a minimum wage, but what that wage should be is up for debate and would vary depending on the region/cost of living in that part of the country.

      I do not think you read the article.

      Reply
  2. Holden

    I think it would be simple enough to decide to let Min Wage become a State’s Issue and for the Federal Government to back off. Sure, it won’t be perfect, but what is?

    Reply

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