Minimum wage: Enough to live in Alameda?

Minimum wage: Enough to live in Alameda?

Michele Ellson

Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill to increase California’s minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10 by 2016. But will people earning that wage be able to afford living in Alameda?

A living wage calculator designed by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology lists $11.51 as a living hourly wage for a single adult living in Alameda, or nearly $24,000 a year; a single parent raising a child here needs more than double that amount to get by.

The calculator’s creator acknowledged that the estimates she relied on in tabulating the cost of food, housing and other necessities may be too low. It estimates the cost of housing for a single parent with one child at $1,377 a month; a one-week review The Alamedan conducted of two-bedroom apartments offered for rent on Craigslist showed an average monthly rent of $2,042 (rent for one bedroom apartments averaged $1,535). Monthly childcare costs are estimated at $550 – a little over half what many local day care operators who supervise smaller children typically charge.

The wage increase would ultimately put an additional $363 a month more into the paychecks of the state’s lowest wage employees if they’re working full time. Working full time at $10 an hour, a minimum wage earner would only collect $21,000 a year.

Census data from 2007-2011 show that 12.1 percent of the 17,603 Alameda families counted earned less than $25,000 a year, and 7.6 percent are officially living below the poverty line. Nearly half of Alameda’s single mothers fall below the poverty line, the data show. (This year, the poverty line for a family of two is $15,510).

“The (wage) increase is so slight it doesn’t really make a difference. It doesn’t even come close to making up a lot of the other cuts that have been made,” said Doug Biggs, executive director of the Alameda Point Collaborative, which serves hundreds of formerly homeless families. “It doesn’t even come close to being an improvement, for any person trying to survive on that.”

But some have questioned whether the rising wage could impact Alameda’s small businesses. Alameda Chamber of Commerce President Kari Thompson couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Here’s our quick graphic detailing the cost of living in Alameda and the number of Alameda families who don't make enough to pay it.


Submitted by marilyn pomeroy (not verified) on Thu, Sep 26, 2013

Businesses who don't pay a living wage are really asking for a subsidy from tax payers to make up the difference. The recent increase in people on food stamps is an example of how we are supporting low income workers who should be able to earn enough to survive but can't because it is still legal to pay so little per hour. People don't seem to connect these dots and do not understand the true cost of shopping at Wall mart or buying that cheap fast food. This is the sector with the highest job growth, jobs that don't pay enough to live on. And we are subsidizing these businesses with our taxes.

Submitted by Concerned Citizen (not verified) on Thu, Sep 26, 2013

The problem is not the minimum wage, it's the out of control birth rates and over population. If we don't care enough to do something about it, we are obligated to subsidize companies, so people can work. It's not Wal-Marts fault that we have birth rates that are out of control.

Submitted by Ed Hirshberg on Thu, Sep 26, 2013

During my working career I have learned that prices, of which wages are a subset, are primarily information for the marketplace. If something is in short supply, the price will rise, and if it is plentiful, it will fall. If the price is raised by government action rather than the market, then there will be oversupply. We have seen this with farm price support, and then the government responded by paying farmers not to farm. Conversely, if the price is artificially held down, we see chronic shortages, such as apartments in New York City which has had emergency rent control since WWII. So with wages held artificially high more workers will look for work, and employers will try to avoid hiring them by offshoring, sub-contracting, using robots or computers, or having the customer do the job as in operating an elevator, pumping gas, or ringing up sales at the cash register. Some may remember the Doris Day commercials on TV where she pointed to an article of clothing that was made in America and said "It matters to me". The wages kept climbing and now very little clothing is made in America. It only costs about a dime to move an article of clothing from China to the US. How much more production do we want to force to China?