Where in the US Does Minimum Wage Go Furthest When Adjusted for Cost of Living?

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A new year brings hope for a better tomorrow. Most American residents, however, are hoping for a little financial relief in the here and now. Workers in 26 states (23 as of Jan. 1) will earn more money in 2023 thanks to state-mandated minimum wage hikes.

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Depending on where you live, wage increases may stretch further for some Americans than others, according to a recent SmartAsset study. For its 2023 edition of “Cities Where Minimum Wage Goes Further” study, minimum wage stats from 79 of the largest U.S. cities were adjusted with cost of living data from the Council for Community and Economic Research to create a real, cost of living minimum wage amount. Hence, minimum wages are worth more (and less) in the following cities:

Cities With the Highest Real Minimum Wage

1. Denver

Minimum Wage (Adjusted for Cost of Living): $15.07
Statutory Minimum Wage: $17.29

2. Spokane, Washington

Minimum Wage (Adjusted for Cost of Living): $15.02
Statutory Minimum Wage = $15.74

3. Buffalo, New York

Minimum Wage (Adjusted for Cost of Living): $14.92
Statutory Minimum Wage = $14.20

4. Minneapolis

Minimum Wage (Adjusted for Cost of Living): $14.85
Statutory Minimum Wage = $15.19

5. St. Louis

Minimum Wage (Adjusted for Cost of Living): $13.68
Statutory Minimum Wage = $12.00

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Denver has the second-highest minimum wage among the cities surveyed. With a cost of living 14.7% higher than the national average, it is the city where minimum wage goes the furthest. Other centers with favorable real minimum wages are Spokane, Buffalo, Minneapolis, and St. Louis. As SmartAsset notes, Seattle has the highest minimum wage among cities surveyed, but its high cost of living dropped it to 13th place in the study’s listing.

Cities With the Lowest Real Minimum Wage

1. Honolulu

Minimum Wage (Adjusted for Cost of Living): $6.47
Statutory Minimum Wage: $12.00

1. Plano, Texas

Minimum Wage (Adjusted for Cost of Living): $6.47
Statutory Minimum Wage: $7.25

3. New Orleans

Minimum Wage (Adjusted for Cost of Living): $6.54
Statutory Minimum Wage: $7.25

4. Philadelphia

Minimum Wage (Adjusted for Cost of Living): $6.69
Statutory Minimum Wage: $7.25

5. Atlanta

Minimum Wage (Adjusted for Cost of Living): $6.80
Statutory Minimum Wage: $7.25

With hourly real worth minimum wages of $6.47, two cities — Honolulu and Plano, TX — tied for last place in SmartAsset’s survey. Both cities took different routes to get to their low adjusted cost of living minimum wages. Although Honolulu has a respectable state-mandated minimum wage of $12/hour, it also has an enormous cost of living index of 85.6% above the national average. Plano has a cost of living above the national average, too (12.1% higher), but has the minimum U.S. national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Rounding out the bottom five are New Orleans, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

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The following states are increasing minimum wages in 2023, per CNBC: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

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About the Author

David Nadelle is a freelance editor and writer based in Ottawa, Canada. After working in the energy industry for 18 years, he decided to change careers in 2016 and concentrate full-time on all aspects of writing. He recently completed a technical communication diploma and holds previous university degrees in journalism, sociology and criminology. David has covered a wide variety of financial and lifestyle topics for numerous publications and has experience copywriting for the retail industry.
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