Minimum Wage Workers Struggling To Afford 2-Bedroom Houses

By Hannah Smith - 08 Jul '19 09:55AM
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Minimum wage workers across the nation are familiar with the difficulties that are naturally associated with earning low incomes; whether it's struggling to put food on the table or finding it difficult to afford education for their children, everyday laborers often have much on their plate to deal with. These days, things are getting even worse as minimum wage workers find themselves struggling to afford simple 2-bedroom houses, which were once upon a time seen as a necessary part of becoming a good citizen.

It's becoming harder and harder for folks earning the minimum wage to get by. Here's an exploration of why it's so difficult for them to purchase a home, and how forthcoming changes might improve or diminish their financial prospects.

Interest rates have been inching upwards

One of the most notable reasons that it's so hard for minimum wage workers to afford a 2-bedroom house is that interest rates have been slowly but steadily inching upwards over the past few years. In 2018 alone, for instance, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates on three separate occasions, largely in an effort to offset inflation and keep the broader U.S. economy healthy. While this may be good in a macroeconomic sense, it's proven disastrous for many minimum wage earners who are trying to purchase their first humble abode.

Certain members of Congress are hard at work trying to raise the minimum wage, and they're joined by proud activists like the fast-food employees engaged in the #FightForFifteen. Nevertheless, it may be some time until the minimum wage is actually raised, and by then inflation and the rising costs of living may render such a raise pointless in the first place. In the meantime, those earning the minimum wage have been left to fend for themselves when it comes to predatory loans and lackluster housing options which take advantage of their financial peril.

There's not a single area in the entire United States where a minimum wage earner putting in 40 hours a week can afford a simple 2-bedroom apartment. This should prove to be very worrying for the future wellbeing of our country; if everyday laborers can't afford to purchase a home, fewer of them will be willing to settle down and start families, which are nearly as important as homeownership when it comes to accruing long-term wealth. Certain demographics will feel this pain more than others, too; people of color and other disadvantaged Americans are routinely more dependent on the minimum wage than their White and more-highly-educated counterparts.

Millions of Americans are dependent upon the minimum wage

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bare minimum of 700,000 workers was earning the then-minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in 2016, the most recent year when data was available. About 1.5 million workers had wages even lower than this, too, meaning about 2.2 million workers are paid at or below the minimum wage in the United States. In the time that has since elapsed, this figure could have grown to become even larger. With so many citizens struggling to make ends meet, it's only natural that the broader wellbeing of the U.S. economy is jeopardized.

Homeownership is essential towards the creation of long-term wealth, so the fact that literally, no minimum wage earner in the country can purchase a simple 2-bedroom home is evidence that they'll likely continue to wallow in poverty for years to come. It's not just those earning the minimum wage who suffer from this, either; realtors and countless other businesses will see their prosperity diminish when fewer and fewer people can afford to purchase and slowly but surely upgrade the property for themselves.

Given that real wages have been stagnant in the United States for years if not decades, there are few reasons to believe that those earning the minimum wage will find themselves capable of affording a 2-bedroom house or apartment anytime soon. Nevertheless, workers' rights movements and those arguing for more affordable housing conditions must continue to make an effective case that the current housing and payment situation for millions of people is simply untenable. More affordable urban housing, in particular, is desperately needed, but efforts to mitigate the creation of cheaper apartments are still running rampant in most American cities.

Those who are already living comfortably within their own homes are probably more concerned with finding a good mattress for a bad back than they are with raising the minimum wage. Yet this fight is one that impacts all Americans, as fewer people buying houses spells woe for the broader U.S. economy. Furthermore, homeowners who are comfortable today may find themselves thrust into positions in the future where they're forced to depend upon the minimum wage after losing their job, making it imperative to foster cheaper housing options everywhere. Minimum wage workers are struggling to afford something as simple as a basic home, and until this issue is resolved broad economic growth can never be sustained. 

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