May 24, 2019
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The gap between cost of living and the minimum wage for every Maine county, mapped

Dan MacLeod | BDN
Dan MacLeod | BDN

A map produced by a researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows how the minimum wage compares with the cost of living in every county in the U.S.

To sum it up: there is no county in Maine where a worker earning minimum wage can make ends meet, based on this analysis. But more broadly, there are almost no places where that is the case. And for a single parent with a kid, it’s impossible to make ends meet anywhere in country, according to this analysis. 

Amy Glasmeier, professor of economic geography at MIT, used federal data sources — such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — to determine how much it costs to pay for necessities like food, shelter, taxes, insurance, transportation. (That’s a more narrow measure than in this calculator we previously posted.) Then she factored in 40-year workweeks with no vacation time to calculate the living wage.

The result is what you see on the map.

In Maine, the biggest gap between the minimum and living wage is in Cumberland County, where the living wage for a single adult was tallied at $11.16 an hour — $3.66 more than the state minimum wage of $7.50. When you add kids, the living wage more than doubles to $23.44, a gap of $15.94 an hour.

Glasmeier told boston.com that she hope the map can “help families and individuals to know more about their costs of living and also to think about how they might argue for better wages.”

The minimum wage debate has become a hot issue in Maine recently, with Portland’s City Council approving a municipal $10.10 minimum wage, effective Jan. 1. The wage will go up $.58 the next year, and will be pegged to inflation after that.

The think tank Economic Policy Institute this summer estimated that 26.2 percent of Maine workers would benefit if the federal minimum wage were raised to $12 in the next five years.

See the full-sized version of MIT’s map here.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained a typographical error in its comparison the study’s findings with the minimum wage. 



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