GOBankingRates

The Best and Worst Cities to Be Making Minimum Wage

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It’s possible to live comfortably on just minimum wage — but it depends on where you live. To determine the best and worst cities to live in while making minimum wage, GOBankingRates analyzed the 100 most populous cities in the U.S. It looked at the cost of living and the livability of each of the cities.

Click through to see the best and worst cities for minimum-wage earners in the U.S.

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Worst Cities to Be Earning Minimum Wage

If you live in one of these cities and make the minimum wage, you might want to get a higher-paying job — or move to a city with a lower cost of living.

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25. Los Angeles

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $30,562

The high cost of rent and transportation in Los Angeles makes it a difficult place to live comfortably while making minimum wage. And it will likely become more difficult — LA is one of the 10 U.S. cities where the cost of living is quickly rising, found a separate GOBankingRates study.

Make Your Money Work for You
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24. Birmingham, Ala.

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $14,991

The average annual utility costs in Birmingham are $2,862 — the fourth-highest of all the cities included in this study.

Save Money: Cities in Every State Where Your Paycheck Stretches the Furthest

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23. Baltimore

Yearly minimum wage: $19,240
Total annual necessities: $22,795

The minimum wage in Baltimore is $9.25 per hour, which makes it difficult to cover the average annual rent in the city — $17,802.

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22. Boston

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $30,931

Boston has the fifth-highest rent prices of all the cities included in this study, with the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom at $2,100. On the bright side, Boston is one of the best cities to score your dream job.

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21. Memphis, Tenn.

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $13,571

You can afford to pay for necessities earning minimum wage in Memphis. In fact, it’s one of the cities where your paycheck will stretch the furthest (if you earn the average income).

However, the city has low scores for livability. Area Vibes gave the city low scores for its high crime, low high school graduation rates and lower-than-average median household income.

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20. Milwaukee

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $13,908

Although you can afford to cover annual necessities in Milwaukee while earning minimum wage, the city still falls toward the bottom of this list because of its low quality of life. Area Vibes gave Milwaukee poor livability scores for its high crime rates, low high school graduation rate and median household income that’s lower than the Wisconsin average.

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19. Tampa, Fla.

Yearly minimum wage: $17,160
Total annual necessities: $21,997

Home values, rent and the cost of consumer goods and services are all expected to rise in Tampa in 2018, a separate GOBankingRates study found.

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18. Orlando, Fla.

Yearly minimum wage: $17,160
Total annual necessities: $20,137

The average annual cost of groceries in Orlando is $4,495, one of the highest of all the cities included in this study.

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17. Pittsburgh

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $18,121

Pittsburgh has some of the highest annual utility costs of the cities included in this study, with the average annual cost at $2,068.

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16. Washington, D.C.

Yearly minimum wage: $26,000
Total annual necessities: $33,420

Washington, D.C., has the highest minimum wage of all the cities included in this study. Though minimum wage pays a whopping $12.50 per hour, the city has the fifth-highest cost of total annual necessities, which makes it one of the worst cities for minimum-wage earners.

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15. Fort Worth, Texas

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $19,269

It would already be difficult for a minimum-wage earner to make ends meet in Fort Worth. A separate GOBankingRates study found that Dallas-Fort Worth is one of the 10 cities where the cost of living will soar in 2018.

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14. Minneapolis

Yearly minimum wage: $20,072
Total annual necessities: $24,146

Minneapolis’ cost of living is around the middle compared to the other cities in this study, but its livability score puts it lower down on the list. Area Vibes gave Minneapolis low scores for its high crime rate, low high school graduation rate and less-than-stellar weather, in addition to a high cost of living.

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13. Oakland, Calif.

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $31,993

Oakland is one of the biggest U.S. cities where you need the most income to live comfortably, a previous GOBankingRates study found.

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12. Dallas

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $20,137

It could be hard to live off minimum wage in Dallas, which is home to the most expensive zip codes in Texas.

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11. Houston

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $19,995

A minimum wage worker might not be able to afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Houston, where the average annual rent is $15,600.

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10. Charlotte, N.C.

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $20,404

The median annual rent in Charlotte is $14,880, which would require almost all of a minimum-wage worker’s annual earnings to cover.

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9. New Orleans

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $19,329

The average annual cost of utilities in New Orleans is $2,303. The city has the ninth-highest utility costs compared to the other cities included in this study.

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8. San Jose, Calif.

Yearly minimum wage: $21,840
Total annual necessities: $34,531

According to a 2017 GOBankingRates study on how much money you need to live comfortably in the biggest cities in America, you would need to make over $87,000 in San Jose — which is about four times what a minimum-wage earner would make.

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7. New York

Yearly minimum wage: $21,632
Total annual necessities: $34,235

The average person will spend $1,452 annually on getting around in New York. Transportation expenses in the Big Apple are the fourth-highest of all the cities included in this study.

Did You Know? You’re Poor Here, But You’d Be Rich in Almost Any Other Place

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6. Philadelphia

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $21,790

Philadelphia is one of those cities where rent is cheap but the cost of living isn’t. Despite the relatively low median rent of $1,355, minimum-wage earners would have to earn a bit more to be able to afford the overall cost of living.

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5. Nashville, Tenn.

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $24,081

It’s nearly impossible to live in Nashville on minimum wage, and the cost of living is still rising.

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4. Miami

Yearly minimum wage: $17,160
Total annual necessities: $29,028

The median average annual rent in Miami is $22,800 — more than $5,000 over what a minimum wage earner makes

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3. Atlanta

Yearly minimum wage: $10,712
Total annual necessities: $23,249

The cost to live in Atlanta is more than double what a minimum-wage earner makes in a year. At $5.15 per hour, the city has the worst minimum wage of all the cities included in this study.

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2. Jersey City, N.J.

Yearly minimum wage: $17,888
Total annual necessities: $34,116

The median rent in Jersey City — $2,393 per month — is the third-highest compared to all of the cities included in this study.

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1. San Francisco

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $46,581

San Francisco is one of the cities with the highest minimum wages in the country at $11 per hour. However, it has the highest cost of living of any of the cities included in this study, making it the worst city to be a minimum-wage earner.

Check It Out: 31 Cities Where You Can Afford to Live Off Less Than $50K

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Best Cities to Be Earning Minimum Wage

If you’re making the minimum wage, it’s not all gloom and doom. Click through to see the best cities where you can get by on minimum wage.

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25. Tulsa, Okla.

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $11,790

Tulsa has relatively affordable rents, with the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment at $625. Oklahoma is also one of the cheapest states to call home, a separate GOBankingRates study found.

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24. Anaheim, Calif.

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $28,170

Although the living expenses in Anaheim are relatively high, the SoCal city still scored as one of the top cities for minimum-wage earners because of its high livability scores. Anaheim earned high scores from Area Vibes for its available amenities and good weather. And, it’s on track to become one of the $15 minimum wage cities by 2022.

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23. Oklahoma City

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $12,488

Oklahoma City is one of the best states for minimum-wage earners. As a whole, Oklahoma is one of the states where you are least likely to live paycheck to paycheck, a separate GOBankingRates study found.

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22. Albuquerque, N.M.

Yearly minimum wage: $15,600
Total annual necessities: $12,007

It’s cheap to get around Albuquerque, which has the second-lowest transportation costs of all the cities included in this study.

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21. Portland, Ore.

Yearly minimum wage: $21,320
Total annual necessities: $23,523

The minimum wage in Portland is $10.25 per hour, which is higher than many of the other cities included in this study.

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20. Lexington, Ky.

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $12,566

The average monthly rent in Lexington is $699, which is among the lowest of all the other cities included in this study.

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19. Cincinnati

Yearly minimum wage: $17,264
Total annual necessities: $13,914

The average annual cost of groceries in Cincinnati is relatively low at $3,210 per year.

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18. Chicago

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $24,553

At $11 per hour, Chicago has the third-highest minimum wage of all the major cities included in this study.

Looking for Cheap Rent? Here Are the Best Big Cities for Renters

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17. Columbus, Ohio

Yearly minimum wage: $17,264
Total annual necessities: $14,117

Columbus is one of the cities where you can realistically live off minimum wage. It has some of the least expensive groceries compared to the other cities in this study, with the annual cost at just $3,500.

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16. Anchorage, Alaska

Yearly minimum wage: $20,467
Total annual necessities: $17,036

Anchorage has one of the lowest costs of living compared to the other cities included in this study.

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15. Fort Wayne, Ind.

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $10,701

Fort Wayne has the least expensive median rent of all the cities included in this study, with the average monthly rent at a mere $495.

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14. San Diego

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $26,365

The average annual cost of utilities in San Diego is $1,362, the eighth-lowest of all the cities included in this study.

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13. Sacramento, Calif.

Yearly minimum wage: $21,840
Total annual necessities: $19,747

With the minimum wage in Sacramento at $10.50 per hour, someone earning minimum wage would be able to cover annual expenses in this capital city.

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12. Toledo, Ohio

Yearly minimum wage: $17,264
Total annual necessities: $9,777

Overall, living expenses in Toledo are pretty affordable. The city has the least expensive groceries of all the cities in this study, with the annual cost of groceries averaging just $2,910.

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11. Detroit

Yearly minimum wage: $19,240
Total annual necessities: $11,407

Detroit is one of the biggest cities in America that requires the least income to live comfortably. And, it’s one of the best cities to earn minimum wage.

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10. El Paso, Texas

Yearly minimum wage: $15,080
Total annual necessities: $10,851

El Paso has the third-cheapest rent of all the cities included in this study, with the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom at $592. In fact, it’s also one of the best places to retire where rent is less than $1,000, found a separate study.

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9. Long Beach, Calif.

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $22,971

Although the median monthly rent in Long Beach is relatively high at $1,495 per month, the city has some of the least expensive utilities, with the average annual cost at $1,242.

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8. Omaha, Neb.

Yearly minimum wage: $18,720
Total annual necessities: $14,325

Omaha is one of the best minimum wage cities because of its low cost of living and high livability. Area Vibes gave Omaha an A+ for its access to amenities.

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7. Buffalo, N.Y.

Yearly minimum wage: $21,632
Total annual necessities: $14,508

Thanks to a relatively high minimum wage of $10.50 per hour and relatively low living costs in Buffalo, it’s possible to cover all necessities while making minimum wage.

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6. Riverside, Calif.

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $20,041

Riverside is an affordable place to cover the cost of living, and it also earned high livability score from Area Vibes for its plentiful amenities and nice weather.

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5. Phoenix

Yearly minimum wage: $21,840
Total annual necessities: $15,356

Phoenix has some of the most affordable groceries of the cities included in this study, with the average annual cost of groceries at $3,146.

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4. Mesa, Ariz.

Yearly minimum wage: $21,840
Total annual necessities: $15,545

Mesa has the fourth-lowest utility costs of all the cities included in this study, with the average monthly cost at $103.

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3. Tucson, Ariz.

Yearly minimum wage: $21,840
Total annual necessities: $11,071

Costs of living in Tucson are low across the board: median monthly rent is $608, average monthly groceries are $260 and average monthly transportation costs are $42.

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2. Fresno, Calif.

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $12,239

At $650 per month, Fresno has some of the most affordable rent of all the cities included in this study.

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1. Bakersfield, Calif.

Yearly minimum wage: $22,880
Total annual necessities: $12,214

Thanks to a relatively high minimum wage of $11 per hour and a low cost of living, Bakersfield is the best city to live in if you make minimum wage. The city has some of the least expensive rents, with the median rent at just $650 per month. It also offers affordable transportation, with the average annual cost at $480.

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What Are the Best and Worst Minimum Wage Cities?

This GOBankingRates study identified the best and worst cities to be making the minimum wage. The five best cities:

1. Bakersfield, Calif.
2. Fresno, Calif.
3. Tucson, Ariz.
4. Mesa, Ariz.
5. Phoenix

And the five worst cities for minimum-wage earners are:

1. San Francisco
2. Jersey City, N.J.
3. Atlanta
4. Miami
5. Nashville, Tenn.

Up Next: This Is the Reality of What You Can Afford on Minimum Wage

Methodology: GOBankingRates compiled the list of cities based on the 100 most populous U.S. cities, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Cities were analyzed based on the following factors: (1) housing, using the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in each city, sourced from Zillow’s December 2017 rental index; (2) groceries, using the recommended amount reported by cost-of-living database Numbeo.com for each city; (3) utilities in each city, according to cost estimates from Numbeo.com; and (4) transportation cost based on the price of a monthly pass for public transportation, according to cost estimates from Numbeo.com. Monthly costs were totaled and multiplied by 12 to get the annual cost of necessities in each city. To get yearly salaries, the minimum wage was multiplied by 40 hours a week and by 52 weeks in a year. Each city was also given a livability score (sourced from AreaVibes). They were then ranked to produce a list of the best and worst cities to be making minimum wage.