EDITORIAL: Minimum wage housing study is misleading

The folks at the National Low Income Housing Coalition have made a stunning discovery: Households in which the sole earner makes the minimum wage will struggle to find decent housing.

But while the travails of the working poor are certainly worth addressing, the coalition’s poster boy of housing privation is more a unicorn than a reality.

“It’s clear that the minimum wage is not a livable wage,” said Andrew Aurand, vice president for research at the coalition, which last week released an annual report, “Out of Reach 2018.” To pay for an average one-bedroom apartment in Las Vegas, a minimum wage worker without health benefits would need to work 73 hours a week, the group calculates.

The study is a twofer for progressives. It exaggerates a problem in an effort to push lawmakers to outlaw more jobs by jacking up the minimum wage and to funnel more money from taxpayers into state and local housing subsidies.

But putting aside debates over what is “affordable” and what percentage of a family’s earnings may be comfortably spent on housing, the report ignores one glaring fact: Virtually no American families exist that consist of a lone worker pulling down the minimum wage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 1.6 percent of all workers earned the minimum wage or less in 2016. A great many of these employees — particularly those who reported making an hourly wage below the $7.25 federal minimum — are tip earners, meaning they likely make well above the floor.

In addition, about half of all minimum wage earners are 25 or younger, meaning they are probably not supporting a family and toil in entry-level jobs that will allow them to earn valuable experience they can use to advance themselves. Moreover, the BLS reports that the majority of minimum wage earners work in part-time jobs, suggesting they are supplementing household income rather than being the sole provider of it.

Local housing costs are indeed rising, and this may obviously cause hardships for low-income earners. But higher taxes, wage mandates and other heavy handed regulatory “solutions” will only exacerbate the problem by killing jobs, discouraging entrepreneurship and adding to the bureaucratic red tape that drives up housing costs in the first place.

And groups such as the National Low Income Housing Coalition should stop propagating the fallacy that thousands of American families and their children lack adequate housing because they’re led by a single worker who can’t find anything but minimum wage work.

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