Chicago’s Minimum Wage is Rising, But is it Enough to Live On?

Despite an increase this week to the city’s minimum wage, many Chicagoans still aren’t earning what some researchers call a “living wage.”

The increase from $11 to $12 is one in a series of increases that began in 2014. But in Chicago, $13.05 per hour is considered to be a living wage for a single person living alone in 2016, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator.

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That’s for a single person. If you’re an adult with a child, a living wage would be over $26. That’s based on 2016 data, when the city’s minimum wage rose to $10.50.

Researchers at the Metropolitan Planning Council say not only is the city’s minimum wage behind the living wage, but black and Latino families struggle the most.

“Metro Chicago really stood out for its level of inequity,” said Alden Loury of the Metropolitan Planning Council. “The widest gap in employment between African-Americans and whites, and also for the particular struggles that African-Americans are having, so, highest level of individuals not earning a living wage, the highest percentage of households where there were no working adults.”

Of course, since 2016 the city’s minimum wage has continued to increase. In a year, it will increase again by a dollar, to $13 an hour. After that, it will only increase at the rate of inflation or 2.5 percent, whichever is lower.

The MPC says that’s not enough: the city’s minimum wage earners will still make far less what MIT’s calculations for a living wage. They say increased educational opportunities would make the difference for low-wage earners.

Follow Brandis Friedman on Twitter @BrandisFriedman

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