DENVER (KDVR) — Minimum wage workers in Denver have more purchasing power than any major city in the U.S.
SmartAsset released a study comparing the legal minimum wage in 79 U.S. cities to the wage taken into account for the cost of living.
The study accounts for two different minimum wages – statutory and real. The statutory wage is the one the public knows, it is what the city requires employers to pay. The so-called real minimum wage is what that pay actually looks like compared to the city’s cost of living.
Denver has one of the nation’s highest statutory minimum wages and the highest real minimum wage. Since Jan. 1, the city’s statutory minimum wage increased to $17.29, second only to Seattle’s minimum wage of $18.69.
Denver’s minimum wage earners can stretch their pay further than any other major U.S. city. Adjusting for the cost of living, a Denver minimum wage translates into $15.07 in real wages.
Buffalo, New York, Minneapolis and Spokane, Washington each have equivalent real wages which are within 20 cents of Denver’s.
On the low end of the national spectrum are Plano, Texas, New Orleans and Atlanta. In these cities, the statutory minimum wage has about $6.50 in purchasing power.
Some of the cities with the nation’s highest minimum wages are also the nation’s most expensive. As such, their real minimum wages fall far short of the statutory minimum wage.
San Francisco has one of the nation’s highest statutory minimum wages at $16.99 per hour. However, it is also one of the most expensive cities to live in. Adjusted for this expense, the real minimum wage in San Francisco is nearly $8 less than the legal wage.
Other cities with extremely high costs of living have comparably low purchasing power even with high minimum wages. The difference between the legal minimum wage and the real minimum wage in New York City, Seattle, the District of Columbia or Honolulu is between $5 and $7.
In other cities, the cost of living is much lower meaning minimum wage earners actually get more bang for their buck. In St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fort Wayne, Indiana the real minimum wage is $1 to $2 higher than the legal wage.