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What that image depicts is what share of an “adequate family of four budget” that a minimum wage earner would make if she worked full-time (52 weeks @ 40 hours). That budget was determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and included what it costs to purchase goods, rents and services, payment of personal taxes, Social Security deductions and nominal allowances for occupational expenses and life insurance.

There has never been a time when the minimum wage covered more than 56% of an adequate budget in any city for a family of four. Arguments today that the minimum wage was historically “enough” to provide for a family are just not accurate.

What I found most interesting in this chart is the implied cost of raising a family in New York City. During WWII, it was the most expensive among the cities shown, at least in terms of how easy a minwage job could provide for a family. Then notice the mobility, NYC rises to middle of the pack by the time the Best and Brightest were starting to wreak havoc on us all. Indeed, NYC was more affordable than Buffalo, and I would presume Rochester as well.

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