Full time minimum wage workers can't afford the rent on a 2-bedroom apartment anywhere in the USA

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/06/14/roof-over-your-head.html


This is why my richest relative rents out trailers. They’re cheap, and your rent doesn’t go towards ‘amenities’ such as a maintenance crew. They sit on their own lots, with a front and back yard, and the renters have room for dogs and kids.


First, as a disclaimer, there’s no question that the USA is going straight to shit in terms of quality of life for anyone that’s not in the top 10-20% of household incomes.

With that said, this is making a weird assumption: that it was ever realistic for a single-income earner on the bottom of a country’s pay scale to afford a family-size dwelling. This is completely untrue for almost every country in the world.

A more fair question would of course be: “Can a single bottom-decile earner even have a basic subsistence income in most population centers”, and the answer to that is also of course “No, not without heavy taxpayer subsidy, and that’s also fucked”, and that would also be open to less criticism.


In before the usual right-wing populist and conservative blathering about how people need to move away from the coasts and big cities to the Heartland where they can become Real Americans™ who live on the cheap. Of course, many of those same people are outraged at the concept of a nation-wide $15/hr minimum wage, despite the separate but related message conveyed by the map.


I would suggest the aggregate state-wide data is very misleading here. For example rents in NYC are vastly different (by >5-fold) compared to rents in upstate cities. You might need $30/hr for Brooklyn, but in Utica $7-10 will suffice. Same deal for Mass. (Boston vs. Amherst) and Cali (Bay Area vs Central Valley). People in such situations should really question their need to be in a big expensive city.

Ah yes, the place where everyone moved away from in the last 30 years because all the jobs disappeared due to automation.



Except for the places that have oh-so-healthy boom-bust economies based on natural resource extraction. American conservatives are always urging young people to move to North Dakota, where unemployment is low (until it’s high), wages are high (until they’re low), and real estate is cheap (except when it isn’t).


I think the point here would be that in the U.S…you USED to be able to afford family size housing on a single income.

In 1973 when my parents bought their 3 bed single bath ranch on a half acre of land in RI…it cost $30,000. My father who worked as a vice president at a jewelry distribution company was our sole source of income and he made about $45,000 at the time. Which was the norm for senior management wages for a small company. My mom ( a nurse) had stopped working full time for a few years from 68-75 to take care of the 3 kids and then went back to working full time in the late 70’s again.

Today, that house runs $500k or more in that neighborhood. And even if he was making VP money at $150-200k they couldn’t afford it on a single salary. Between the cost of the 3 kids, a couple cars, maintenance, etc etc. no way.

In the last 40 years…this nation’s entire salary structure and pay scale has warped our economic structure.


Yes but only jsut (see my comment below). Not a right winger BTW. I support a nationwide minimum wage and am certainly not interested in the indoctrination of people to become Real Americans™. What I do not agree with, is the idea that everyone needs to live near/in a big expensive city because that’s where the “good” jobs are. I’m an immigrant from one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth before I came here, and I’ve lived my life in the US in small cities, doing high tech work, and as a result have been fortunate enough to become a home owner. I’ve got relatives back home who’ve refused to move away from the big city (“I just can’t leave - I need that city vibe”) and are still renting in their 50s.
TL/DR it’s about more than just minimum wage - life choices play a role too.


Yep, and there’s also a lot of “Well what about work-from-home jobs? If you have one of those, you can move to cheaper rent areas!”

First of all, WFH jobs, at least by and large, are kind of unstable. You need to be near a population center that has jobs as a fallback.

Second, if you have a family, you are just failing your kids these days if you make an okay income and don’t get them networked and into a really good school district. Very, very few of these exist in the low-rent areas.

Finally, my wife and I have had this conversation. If we’re both in long-term stable WFH jobs when the kids graduate, we’re sure as shit not moving to Omaha, we’re moving to Costa Rica.


Sorry, but $45k in 1973 ws shit-load of money. And if you can’t afford a $500k house on a $200k salary there’s something deeply wrong with your personal finances!


And are you a personal finance professional to make such a claim? if so, feel free to share your credentials.


have a nice day.


$45,000.00 in 1973 had the same buying power as $261,025.41 in 2018.

$30,000.00 in 1973 had the same buying power as $174,016.94 in 2018.

There’s a BIIIIIG difference between buying a $174k house and a $500k house on a $260k salary. It’s a lot of money, but paying 2.8-2.9x as much for your mortgage WILL impact your quality of life a lot.

I live in Denver, BTW - you just can’t buy a 174k small house anywhere anymore. 2 bed, 1 bath 1700sq.ft. homes are going in the mid-high 300s right now, and all getting bought up by investors.

Property values are exploding in metro areas. We bought our house for ~450k 5 years ago, and now it’s worth ~$625k. We literally couldn’t even afford our own house right now!


Increasingly cities large and small are where the jobs, “good” or “bad”, are. Certainly not everyone should need to live in a big city to have a job, but unless one is able to write one’s own ticket doing tech stuff it seems that remote work is still something corporations have problems embracing (IBM recently pulled most of their remote workers back into mostly big-city offices).

Agreed. One of those life choices is deciding whether the “American Dream” (home ownership) is all it was cracked up to be given the trade-offs (some of us prefer “that city vibe” to the doldrums of small towns and exurbs, and some of us need the Alpha city vibe). Some people feel more comfortable living near the sea, some in the desert, some in the mountains, etc., and some of us need the city.

The problem described here is that the economy as a whole has been designed since 1980 to restrict upward mobility and keep the lowest earners locked into wage slavery.


In 1976, my hourly was $3.25, and my rent was $25.00 a month for a share of a house including water & electric. I had cash for beer and shits & giggles at the end of the month too.

Fast forward to today, my Nice lives with 3 other gals in a studio apartment w/ one bathroom here in San Diego [rent $1300 plus utilities], they all make $10.00 an hour, and I still feed them once or twice a week at my house, give them rides when I can, and stop by with a pizza & some beers so they can feel like real humans. It really sucks to be a young adult out on your own nowadays…


Pretty true in Canada, too. Even the “middle class” are barely making the payments on three bedroom homes, dual-income. I would have to work 60 hour work weeks in my present occupation just to make the bills.

Canada’s social safety net is also designed to keep people trapped. EI is structured so you’re better off not working than working 35 hour work weeks.

Money doesn’t make the world go round, debt does.

I’m looking at taking on 50,000 in student loans in hopes of landing a slightly-less-starvation job elsewhere.


You have to think about the ~30% debt to income rule…but remember that it includes ALL debt, not just the mortgage. So yes, someone making $200k in theory can swing the $2500 mortgage for a $500k house. But they would be house poor.

Forget vacations, forget new cars, forget having kids…etc etc. Exactly your point I believe…and mine too.


I spend a month or two a year there during the winter and can only agree – lovely place, lovely people, lovely weather. Technically I have a WFH job, but really I’m a consultant who falls somewhat under the “digital nomad” category because my clients don’t care where I’m working from most of the time. The only WFH jobs corporate America truly loves for people who make the median annual income or less are precarious gig economy ones.


That sounds like a terrifying choice you’re considering. It’s a shame that you or anyone else has to make it, but educational costs that have outpaced the rate of inflation and effective wages are part of the rigged system (probably less so in Canada, but still…)