Louisiana’s minimum wage fails to keep up with cost of living

Photo by: Chazmyne Jackson
Matthew Major, Lafayette resident, plans to save enough money to leave the state for better opportunities.

Chazmyne Jackson

For many Louisiana citizens the need to work multiple jobs, live with parents or roommates and sacrifice personal pleasures in order to survive is a harsh reality.

Matthew Major, a Baton Rouge native, earned minimum wage for four years before accepting a job at Walmart where he earns $11 an hour. Now earning $3 over the minimum wage, Major thought that his life would improve.

“Minimum wage, I don’t know how they do it” said Major. “I’m making $11 and I’m still barely getting by. Living check to check, sometimes under check to check.”

During Major’s four years of working minimum wage jobs he also worked two jobs at once and often sacrificed spending time with his family and friends. Major said the struggle to afford rent, utility bills and car maintenance were overwhelming at times.

“Now I’ve got a car note, car insurance and a phone bill” said Major. “I’m still living check to check now and I don’t even have rent. I moved back in with my parents.”

Major believes a $14 or $15 minimum wage would be more effective. He hasn’t given up hope for a more affordable life. Major plans to leave the state in search of better opportunities.

Louisiana has kept the minimum wage at the federal mandate of $7.25 per hour since 2008. Troy Carter, Democratic Sen., made recent attempts to raise the state minimum wage to $9 per hour but failed in May.

A study by United Way, Alice: A Study of Financial Hardships in Louisiana, determined that citizens have struggled to keep up with the rising costs of homes, cars and general necessities because of stagnated wages. Low-wage jobs have dominated the Louisiana economy, making it more challenging for workers to find jobs with wages that can support a basic household budget. 

According to a GoBankingRates study, the annual living wage needed to live comfortably in Louisiana is $63,842. The study allocates 50% of income towards necessities, 30% towards optional expenses and 20% towards savings. The median household income in Louisiana is $47,905 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

While Louisiana has no plan to set a minimum wage higher than the federal law, 29 other states have a minimum wage higher than federal law and some are planning further increases. 

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