Five Things That Got More Expensive While the Minimum Wage Stayed the Same

Monday, July 24th, marks the 8-year anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage increased. Since 2009, employers have been able to pay their employees as little as $7.25 per hour—except for tipped workers, who can be paid as little as $2.13 per hour before tips.
Because the federal minimum wage doesn’t go up automatically, the minimum wage can stay the same for years while everything else gets more expensive. Congress has to pass legislation every time they want to give minimum wage workers a much-needed raise, and that hasn’t happened in a decade.
It’s time that we raise the minimum wage to a livable wage. Raising the minimum wage not only helps to close the gender pay gap, but it also helps lift women and families out of poverty. The longer we go without increasing the federal minimum wage, the harder it will become for families to afford basic necessities.
Here are 5 things that have only gotten more expensive since the last time the federal minimum wage went up:

1. Housing

Housing rates in the U.S. have risen 5% on average every year. The cost of rent is increasing at a faster pace than inflation, and while purchasing a home can be more cost-effective than paying rent, many people who work in low-wage jobs face barriers to home ownership, such as having a sufficient credit score or having enough savings to go towards a down payment.

2. Food

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost for a gallon of milk has increased 20 cents since 2009, and a pound of tomatoes has increased another 27 cents. Yet families with low incomes typically pay even more for groceries than middle-income families do. Families who can’t afford a car to get to the supermarket have to rely on their local corner store for milk and bread—where the same basic groceries will cost significantly more. Speaking of affording a car…

3. Transportation

Whether it’s by bus, train, or car, people need a way to get to work. Many working people in low-wage jobs cannot afford the costs of owning and maintaining a car, but with limited public transportation options in some parts of the country, some workplaces are inaccessible without one. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights conducted a civil rights report on access to transportation and found that low-income Americans spend as much as 42 percent of their annual income on transportation.

4. Child Care

Parents with young children can’t go to work without child care, but the average cost for full-time child care can range from $3,000 to over $17,000 per year, depending on your state and the age of your child. The high cost of child care is a major obstacle for many working families.

5. Higher Education

People working in low-wage jobs who want to improve their prospects often seek higher education to help them climb the corporate ladder. Yet college tuition has been increasing 6% each year—faster than the rate of inflation. At this rate, investment companies are estimating that in 18 years a college degree from a public university could cost a quarter-million dollars.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way for Congress to raise wages now and ensure that they keep going up in the future. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017, introduced by Senators Bernie Sanders and Patty Murray, would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024 and then ensure that the wage is adjusted every year to keep pace with wages overall. The bill would also gradually raise the federal minimum cash wage for tipped workers until it is equal to the regular minimum wage. Establishing one fair minimum wage is a key step toward equal pay for women and economic security for their families.