Minimum Wage

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

To no one's surprise, Austin is one of the most expensive cities to live in in Texas. 

Residents here need to earn around $23 an hour to afford rent for a standard two-bedroom apartment, a new report finds. That’s more than three times the state’s minimum wage of $7.25.

From Texas Standard:

In Los Angeles minimum wage doesn’t go very far. It’s hard to find an apartment for less than a thousand bucks – over half your monthly pay at that income level. Groceries, utilities, transportation and insurance eat up what’s left of your budget.

The struggle to keep their heads above the water has many Californians longing for someplace cheaper. As it turns out, Texas might be that place.

The All-Nite Images/flickr

More than 360,000 Texans make $7.25 an hour or less, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only five states have a higher percentage of minimum wage workers than Texas.

Big corporations like Walmart and McDonalds recognize that, for many workers, $7.25 an hour isn’t enough to live on. Both companies have announced they'll increase their workers' pay this year.

But what happens when wages go up, and they're still not enough to live on?

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

This legislative session, Texas lawmakers are considering seven bills dealing with raising the state's minimum wage.

One of the bills would bring it up from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour for an estimated 2.4 million Texans. But there are pros and cons to raising the state's minimum wage.

The close of 2013 has been marked by a vigorous national debate over income inequality, the plight of low-wage workers in America and the effect of boosting mandatory minimum wages.

The debate was magnified when Wal-Mart got unwanted attention for a store-based holiday food drive for its own needy workers, and when President Obama announced his support for legislation that would raise the national minimum hourly wage of $7.25 for the first time since 2007.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fewer Texans are earning minimum wage or less. The number dropped by 21,000 last year to 452,000 people in Texas earning no more than $7.25 an hour. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics analyst Cheryl Abbot says the decline reflects the fact that the minimum wage hasn’t gone up since 2009.

“Every time it did bump, we saw a larger share of workers receiving the minimum wage or less,” Abbot said. “Now that those increases have fallen off a bit, we’re seeing that share start to decline.”

Photo by KUT News

Earlier this week,  The National Employment Law Project (NELP),  a non-profit organization that advocates for stronger labor standards, issued a call for an increase in the federal minimum wage. They argue an increase  would boost consumer demand and promote hiring.