What is this?
A living wage provides enough income for an individual or family to make a living and stay out of poverty in a given geography. In 2015, living wages for an area generally exceed the minimum wage.
Why does it matter?
Living wage jobs enable people to provide for themselves and/or their families.
Who is responsible?
Income levels are driven by the private sector, with support from local economic development organizations such as the Memphis Shelby Growth Alliance.
How do we measure performance?
We aim to calculate the percentage of Memphians who earn a living wage. We are currently collecting data that will enable us to make that calculation and will report our findings in a future version of this dashboard.
Because we do not yet have localized data, all data on this page comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Living Wage calculator. MIT shares the living wage for counties and metro areas, based on their calculation of common expenses in the designated area. Their proposed hourly wages assume that a person has a 40-hour per week job paying that rate.
We know it is important to Memphians, but gathering local data on how many Memphians earn a living wage is difficult. Currently, we are not able to say how many Memphians earn a living wage and how many do not. We are better able to measure Poverty and Household Income, but that data does not give us a full picture of this issue. As the chart above shows, there's a significant gap between the poverty threshold of earnings and what it takes to earn a living wage, and many Memphians may fall in that gap. We will add to this page as we get trustworthy, detailed data that is specific to Memphis.
The chart below outlines the cost of common family expenses. These costs are used as the basis for MIT's living wage calculations for Memphis.
A region's wages tend to grow when the number of available jobs grows faster than the population, when the proportion of high-paying jobs increases, and when greater numbers of workers become qualified for high-paying jobs. Local business groups and economic development organizations work to support the first two parts of that equation -- job growth and a shift to higher-paying jobs. The Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE), the City of Memphis Office of Resources and Enterprise (MORE), Workforce Investment Network (WIN), StartCo, the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, the Entrepreneurship Powered Innovation Center (EPICenter), and Emerge Memphis all work to make Memphis a fertile place for entrepreneurship and business growth.
Preparing workers for higher-paying jobs is likewise the work of many hands. The Shelby County School system is driving toward that goal with Destination 2025, a strategic plan that strives for eighty percent of seniors to be college- or career-ready, ninety percent to graduate on time, and one hundred percent of graduating seniors to enroll in post-secondary opportunities by the Class of 2025. PeopleFirst!, a program of the People First Partnership, is working to strengthen the region's cradle-to-career pipeline with a portfolio of initiatives aimed at learning readiness, educational outcomes, educational attainment, and talent retention and attraction. The City of Memphis, as a key stakeholder, supports those initiatives and participates in the state's Drive to 55 Alliance, which aims to increase the education level of workers throughout the state.