The cost of living in Morris: Minimum wage vs. living wage

Map of Morris County with the concentration of ALICE households by municipality. ALICE = Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed


Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill on Monday to gradually raise New Jersey’s minimum wage.

The current $8.85 statewide minimum wage will increase to $10 an hour on July 1, 2019, and to $11/hour six months later. It then will increase by $1 an hour every Jan. 1 until reaching $15 on Jan. 1, 2024.

One of Gov. Murphy’s Twitter statements is below:

MIT’s logo for Living Wage Calculator

We know that a the present minimum ($8.85/hour), families and individuals have insufficient income to meet minimum standards, given the cost of living in Morris County.

Will $15/hour be enough? Why was that the mark?

Nuanced answers come from the United Way’s ALICE study.  ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed individuals.  The map above depicts the concentration of ALICE households by municipality in Morris County.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a calculator to help determine a wage rate that allows residents to meet minimum standards of living by county.  Morris County results are below.

As you’ve guessed, the amount you need to make is tied to the size of your family.  When two adults are working, it’s assumed they bring in the same amount.  Shown as total household income needs:

You can see that earning $15/hour working a 40 hour week, only two family types can manage: A single adult, or a couple with one child.

Turning this around, at a $15/hour minimum wage, some families can manage.  Especially if one or more adults clock in at more than 40 hours/week.  Whether they’ll get those extra hours given the effects on businesses will be seen as time goes on.

Beth Kujan (dba Tech Stevedore LLC) is responsible for committees and programs at Morris County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), part of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce.

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  1. Min wage is not meant to support a family and pay for a house. If you cant up-skill yourself enough to get a higher paying wage in the market, get a roommate, or smaller house. ALICE should know this transfer of wealth by the govt will result in more computers, automation, layoffs, and price level increases across the board. Look at Seattle and California with similar policies. Unbelievable how people think this works.