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For American counties, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology publishes a Living Wage Calculator, updated annually.
The calculator describes “living wage” as “the minimum income standard that, if met, draws a fine line between the financial independence of the working poor and the need to seek out public assistance or suffer consistent and severe housing and food insecurity.”
The calculator’s first chart, adjusted for each county, and adjusted for various numbers of adults and children in a household, shows the wages that each worker must earn year round to support the household. Year round full-time employment is assumed to be 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year (2,080 hours).
Other charts show a household’s annual expenses, and typical pay for various types of work if the worker were employed year round.
Technical notes list the assumptions used in calculating the numbers. For example, expenses do not include funds for entertainment, unpaid vacation or holidays, nor for pre-prepared and restaurant meals, nor for saving for a home purchase or retirement.
For Penobscot County, for example, the living wage necessary to support a one-person household is $14.35 an hour, full time, year round ($29,848 a year).
For two adults and two children, with one adult working, the annual income must be $65,894 ($31.68 an hour for 2,080 hours). If both adults are working (two children), income needs to be $85,405 (each worker at $20.53 an hour, full time year-round).