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$15 Minimum Wage Covers Bills for Most Singles But Falls Short of Family Needs

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator says single adults living in Sioux Falls with no kids need to work full-time for $12.96 an hour, or just about $27K a year, to support themselves. Get married and have two kids, and if both parents work, they can just cover the bills if both make $19.08 an hour. Rapid City’s a little cheaper for swinging singles—$12.82/hour—but a little more expensive for families—$19.22 for a family of four with both parents working. MIT says country living saves a little money: when they factor in all the rural rest of South Dakota, MIT calculates a statewide living wage of $12.61 an hour for free singles and $18.54 for two working parents with two kids. (I suspect MIT overstates rural affordability, because it figures in differing housing costs—and yes, a house in rural South Dakota will be significantly cheaper than in our big towns—but does not calculate different costs from town to country in any other major cost category, thus ignoring the fact that groceries will cost more in small-town grocery stores than in the big-town supermarkets and that rural folks will spend more on transportation to get to those supermarkets and their jobs.)

So according to MIT, a $15/hour minimum wage would allow single South Dakotans to cover their living expenses and enjoy some extra beer and pizza. Get a working roommate and have one child, and a $15 minimum wage puts your household back on the edge of survival.

Lending Tree reviewed MIT’s Living Wage calculations for the hundred largest metros in America (Sioux Falls and Rapid City don’t make that list) and finds that a $15/hour minimum wage would meet or beat the single worker’s needs in 64 of them. Des Moines (living wage: $13.79), Omaha ($14.40), and Kansas City ($14.40) are among the places affordable for singles at $15/hour; Minneapolis ($15.65) and Denver ($17.40) are not.

Whether $15 an hour would pay all the bills or not, Lending Tree contends that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would benefit us shoppers as well as the workers fulfilling our cravings:

  • Better customer service: Low earnings typically result in higher staff turnover and correspond to higher error and accident rates. So a $15 minimum wage might mean you get better service when shopping.
  • More spending power: A higher minimum wage would give millions of Americans more spending power, according to Schulz. And with that increased spending, he adds, we’d also see a boost to the economy.
  • Better debt consolidation options: In general, interest rates improve over the long term when the economy does well. So the economic boost from a $15 minimum wage could lead to a lower interest rate on a debt consolidation loan or credit card, saving you money.
  • Opportunities to leverage savings: The more extra cash you have, the more you can take advantage of interest earnings on deposits, including savings accounts or certificates of deposit (CDs). While this can temporarily suppress rates (if there are many people depositing money, banks aren’t as incentivized to offer competitive rates), it’s still a plus in the long term [Devon Delfino, “Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $15 Would Cover Living Wages in Nearly Two-Thirds of the Country’s 100 Largest Metros,” Lending Tree, 2021.06.15].

And before you trot out the old higher-minimum-wage-means-higher-unemployment canard, remember: South Dakota has been raising its minimum wage steadily since 2015, and we haven’t seen a surge in unemployment yet; we’re still struggling with the same worker shortage that has plagued our one-party state for years. And for the most part, $15 an hour still does not fully compensate working parents for the daily sacrifice of their liberty or their effort to uphold family values with well-fed, well-clothed, well-tended children.


  1. John Dale 2021-06-27 10:10

    Repeat after me: “The economy is fundamentally broken as it is fought over and torn apart by Totalitarian, Capitalist, and Communist ideologies. Capitalism works best, but we DO NOT HAVE CAPITALISM.”

  2. Ben Cerwinske 2021-06-27 10:30

    This seems to take into account only “typical” expenses. As a single guy who is “typically” able to support himself, the problem occurs when “atypical” expenses occur. For instance the hailstorm that totaled my car last summer. No parents with extra cash and I have a big problem on my hands…

  3. Guy 2021-06-27 11:53

    John, we need to build a more “Cooperative Capitalist” economic system. The solution: more co-ops = more businesses owned by member-owners like Cory, you and I. I encourage everyone to become a member of their local credit unions. After you do that, get educated on the legal structure of a cooperative. After a little investigation, you will find co-ops in all industry sectors.

  4. Guy 2021-06-27 11:55

    Cory, most co-ops pay workers higher wages with more benefits than other types of businesses.

  5. Mises6 2021-06-27 12:21

    Where is the half Dusty on higher wages and paycheck Thune and Rounds.Their masters probably want minimum wage.

  6. Mark Anderson 2021-06-27 14:52

    Well John Dale, how about just being more like the Norwegians or if you believe were being torn apart why not have representation equal to the percentage of votes? They do that in most advanced countries.

  7. Porter Lansing 2021-06-27 15:34

    Why would seasonal workers go to SD when they’re treated much better in CO? We value their skills and their lives whereas in SD the majority is mean spirited towards legal immigrants. No wonder your labor shortage is nearly permanent.

    DENVER (AP) — Thousands of immigrant farmworkers in Colorado will soon have state minimum wage, overtime and labor organizing rights under a bill signed into law Friday by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

    Gov. Polis also signed into law a measure to create a state fund to help indigent immigrants get legal representation in deportation proceedings. The twin measures are part of a raft of bills passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature to boost immigrant rights.

    Other measures becoming law Friday will make it easier for immigrants to obtain state and local benefits; obtain licenses to work as child care providers and other professions as well as business licenses; and prevent state agencies from sharing personal information with federal immigration enforcement authorities, with certain exceptions such as criminal investigations or under court order.

  8. Joe 2021-06-27 18:13

    Do we know what housing assumptions this study makes for single folks? Because in Rapid at least a studio or one bedroom apartment plus utilities can easily run $900-1000/month. Perusing Craigslist there are very few ads for roommates/housing shares.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2021-06-27 20:47

    Well…I think we should ponder Ben’s issue with unexpected expenses because what he said is very true in my experience when I had low paying jobs (and 15bucks an hour , once you figure your deductions, insurance costs–including car insurance-and work expenses-leaves a fella around 1600 a month, if that.) As we used to say when people would ask how the job was going “I’m living in a basement”. You get hit with the unexpected all the time and you become proficient with “living poor”. You have to look critically at your situation and if the boss shows you no loyalty or the position just promises more grunt work, you have to jump.When you’re in that situation, you can’t afford decent interview clothes….I remember when a loose sole on my shoes was a financial crises.It was a ridiculous way to live and the only saving grace was that we had a sense of humor and we weren’t afraid of a good time.

  10. Donald Pay 2021-06-27 21:19

    Arlo is correct. I spent a number of years in the barely surviving income bracket. We could have qualified for assistance, but were too proud to apply. But, I have to say, we ate OK. We had a garden. We took advantage of every grocery store deal, used coupons, etc. We didn’t have the money to buy in bulk, but as part of a food buying club we would buy bulk items and then split them with others. You go to all the events, like boat shows, where they serve free hot dogs, etc. You can live on the scraps that the capitalist system drops. I mean by living, you eat, you pay rent, you pay utilities. For fun you go to garage sales to buy clothes.

  11. Jake 2021-06-28 10:50

    Odd, isn’t it, that it seems those who have so much look askance or tideways at those who have so little?
    Reminds me of the Republican Party (which has no current platform of beliefs) but stoops to new lows of ethics to prevent people of color from voting in our democracy.
    Their ‘platform’ remains McConnell’s words “From here on I’m 100% opposed to ANYTHING Biden wants to do.

  12. ABC 2021-06-28 12:24

    Higher wages is what we all need!

    Co-ops and Social Businesses (with no profits going to owners) will give us that!

    Imagine: a Kadoka or Brookings start up makes apps to improve everyone’s lives, pays $20 or $25 an hour training wage, and $35 an hour after 90 days! Yes!

  13. Arlo Blundt 2021-06-28 17:41

    Well…I recall the Pierre Food Buying Club. My wife and brother in law attended. It ran into trouble with transportation costs, as I recall. Pierre is definitely off the beaten track. I bought a blue pin striped “banker’s suit” at the ARC Thrift Store in Pierre when I was applying for a job as a mediator.(part time, a little extra income) A prominent lawyer in town donated his old suits to the ARC. Can’t remember what it cost (not much) but it was very nice, silk lining etc. I remember the wing tip shoes I bought to go with it nearly drained my saving account.I got the job and the Program Director told me “If you can’t convince them, at least you can outdress them”.

  14. grudznick 2021-06-28 18:07

    Mr. Blundt, did not Mr. Pay say he was a founding member of that food club? I did not know it had fancy threads but that is a really swell deal. Do they still operate, as far as you know?

  15. Arlo Blundt 2021-06-28 18:30

    grudz-the Thrift Store was a separate operation and was operated by the Association for Retarded Citizens now called the ARC. It was a successful operation but I don’t know if it still exists….need a almost new suit???

  16. grudznick 2021-06-28 18:49

    On Thursday afternoons my good friend Bob and I often peruse those sort of haberdasheries for stylish, almost new jackets and hats so are always looking for new territory to scout, but this seems like a bit too much of a road trip.

  17. Arlo Blundt 2021-06-28 19:09

    Well..grudz…look in the obituaries for someone your size and call the widow…she’ll be happy to have you come over and try on a few suits before taking them to Goodwill.

  18. grudznick 2021-06-28 19:28

    An excellent idea, Mr. Blundt. Thank you.

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