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posted: 6/3/2014 4:45 PM

$15 minimum wage permits few luxuries in U.S. cities

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  • Wendy Harrison, a waitress at the Grill in Seattle, carries food to a table as she works during lunchtime. An Associated Press comparison of the cost of living at several other major U.S. cities found that a $15 minimum wage, like Seattle adopted this week, will make a difference, but won't buy a lavish lifestyle.

      Wendy Harrison, a waitress at the Grill in Seattle, carries food to a table as she works during lunchtime. An Associated Press comparison of the cost of living at several other major U.S. cities found that a $15 minimum wage, like Seattle adopted this week, will make a difference, but won't buy a lavish lifestyle.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- A $15 minimum wage like the one adopted in Seattle doesn't buy many luxuries in most American cities.

Lattes, theater tickets and cable television will still be out of reach for most minimum-wage workers. But about $31,000 a year should be enough to pay the average rent for a shared one-bedroom apartment, plus utilities, health insurance, groceries and an inexpensive cellphone plan.

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Monday's vote by the Seattle City Council created the nation's highest minimum wage. The state minimum wage in Washington was already $9.32 an hour, the highest state wage in the U.S.

Expatistan, a website that tracks the cost of living in cities around the world, says New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Honolulu, Boston and Seattle are the most expensive U.S. cities overall, in that order.

In Seattle, a gallon of milk averages about $3.60, a gallon of gas $3.94, a ride on the bus $2.50. A 16-ounce latte at Starbucks is $3.35 and a pint of local beer $4.50. A typical one-bedroom apartment rents for $1,400.

Seattle's wage is set to begin climbing in April 2015, with many workers reaching $11 an hour next year. That will surpass San Francisco's minimum wage, which at $10.55 an hour is currently the highest of any American city.

An Associated Press comparison of the cost of living in several other major U.S. cities shows a higher wage would make a difference in those places too, but it won't allow for many extras.

New York City: New York's minimum wage is $8, and the median Manhattan rent is $3,420, according to a recent report, so multiple roommates would be required to get by on a yearly minimum-wage salary of $16,640.

The other costs of living in New York are steep. A large coffee at Starbucks is about $2.45, a foot-long sandwich at Subway is $6.90. A gallon of milk is just over $4, a gallon of gas $3.93, a ride on the subway $2.50. The average taxi fare is a bit over $15.

New York's minimum wage, which is set by the state, is slated to rise to $8.75 on Dec. 31 and then $9 at the end of next year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has recently opened the door to let cities set their own minimum wage at 30 percent higher than the $10.10 proposed by President Barack Obama, which could mean a $13 wage in New York's future.

Miami: Miami's minimum wage has been $7.93 since January and is adjusted annually. The city's Consumer Price Index has gone up by 2 percent over the last year as the region recovers from the housing market collapse of eight years ago.

Regular gas in Miami costs about $3.50 a gallon, a basic bus ride $2.25, milk about $4 a gallon and a quality sub is about $8. A large coffee is about $3. Cab fares are $2.50 for the first sixth of a mile and then 40 cents per sixth of a mile. Because of the hurricane danger, property insurance can be double or triple the rates in other parts of the country, if not more.

Chicago: Chicago community activists and labor groups are pushing for the city to follow Seattle's lead on the minimum wage. At the ballot box in March, Chicago voters backed a $15 minimum wage in an advisory referendum.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has formed a task force to study the issue, and a group of city council members have already proposed an ordinance to phase in a $15 wage.

The city does not currently have a set minimum wage separate from the state's current level of $8.25, which has been in place since 2011.

In Chicago, many basic everyday needs are among the most expensive in the nation. A gallon of regular gasoline surpasses $4, behind only Los Angeles and San Francisco on a list of major cities.

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