So close in your analysis of poverty! Except not really at all.

So I found this essay called The Myth of the Minimum Wage. It goes through an exercise in showing that a husband, wife, and two children can survive in Los Angeles on the minimum wage. I was interested to see the math for a variety of reasons.

Indeed, the author does arrange a scenario in which dad works full time, mom works part time, and they get by.


  • Mom can find four other mothers who each want to work part time three days per week, and they can all get their part time schedules to line up reliably so they can rotate child care.
  • Mom always gets her 24 hours per week at the fast food restaurant. Dad always gets his 40 hours per week at the janitorial company. No illness, no injuries, no petty managers.
  • They had never incurred any debt they were trying to pay off.
  • Both parents continued to live, and stay married to each other.
  • The $30 for disposable income, which the author says would cover things like “buying new appliances” as well as entertainment, would also cover the deposit if they had to move because their rent went up, their furniture if it were damaged beyond salvage by a water leak in their apartment, or any medical costs not covered in their HMO plan (and the HMO plan didn’t cost more the next year.)

I don’t really have a problem with someone saying that cable and a computer are not basic necessities. I do have a problem with someone assuming all these things work out and then concluding that saving $30 per month for emergencies makes you “safe, sheltered, and secure.”

Living on the minimum wage obviously can be done, if you’re prudent and have all the luck in the world. It takes so little, though, to upset that precarious balance. Once you fall down, that minimum wage isn’t going to get you back up, either. Hopefully the bad luck wasn’t of the kind that would keep one of the parents from working overtime – if the apartment people will wait that long for the rent and not just kick them out.

(If you go and read the essay, please note that I am not commenting on a variety of other issues I had with it – but that does not mean I don’t have them.)

3 thoughts on “So close in your analysis of poverty! Except not really at all.

  1. Suebob

    In my day job, I (by myself) make more than the national average for a household. I am single and childless. And in California, I feel like I still have to take all the freelance work I can handle just to keep up.

  2. Shane Taylor

    If. If. If. As the saying goes, if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a bus.

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