Resource measures basic needs budget for Minnesota counties

Clark Biegler
Apr 10, 2015

The typical family in Minnesota needs to make $16.34 an hour to make ends meet. That’s according to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The analysis from DEED takes into account the expenses that Minnesota families face, including child care, housing costs and health care, to create a basic needs budget. It is a very rudimentary budget that includes no money for entertainment, eating out, savings or vacations. When a basic needs budget is converted to an hourly wage, it’s often called a “living wage.”

DEED’s analysis is an important tool to judge the quality of jobs available in our state. We’re lucky in Minnesota that we’ve had a good idea of what families need to earn to make ends meet, thanks to the long-running work of the JOBS NOW Coalition.

The living wage for the typical Minnesota family (a family of three, with one adult working full-time and the other working part-time) varies from $11.59 in Stevens County to $19.05 in Isanti County. But families with more than one child, or only one parent working, need to earn higher wages to pay for the essentials.

Minnesota workers need to be able to get and keep quality jobs to support themselves and their families. In the 2014 Legislative Session, policymakers increased the minimum wage for Minnesota workers. This past summer, the first of three minimum wage increases went into effect, and large employers in Minnesota now pay employees a minimum wage of $8.00 an hour, on its way to $9.50 an hour by 2016. This brings the minimum wage closer to what it takes to support a family, but a meaningful gap still remains.

There are more steps policymakers can take so more Minnesotans can have good jobs with family-supporting wages. Currently, about 1.1 Minnesota workers lose wages or even their jobs if they take time off when they or a family member are sick. For many of these workers, one or two days of lost wages can mean difficulty paying the rent, or the family’s transportation and child care costs. Expanding access to earned sick and safe leave would mean more Minnesotans can keep their wages and jobs and afford the necessities.

-Clark Biegler