A minimum-wage worker needs 1.5 jobs just to afford half the rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in most of the US

To afford a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum-wage worker would need to work about 122 hours a week.

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To afford a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum-wage worker would need to work about 122 hours a week.
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Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images

  • Many minimum-wage workers can’t afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual report.
  • The national housing wage for a modest two-bedroom rental apartment is $22.10, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25.
  • A low-income worker earning the federal minimum wage would need three jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment – or 1.5 jobs and a roommate.

A minimum-wage worker needs 2.5 full-time jobs to afford a one-bedroom apartment in most of the US, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) annual report.

But that’s nothing compared to how many jobs they’d have to work to afford a two-bedroom rental apartment in most of the US – three.

However, that’s only if they’re living in a two-bedroom alone or are the only working spouse bringing home a check. It’s likely they have a partner or roommate living there as well, in which case they would split the rent. If both residents are minimum-wage workers, they would need to work 1.5 jobs each to afford rent.

The report looked at the “housing wage,” an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker – working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year – needs to earn to afford a rental home at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair-market rent. That’s defined as spending no more than 30% of their income on housing costs – experts’ rule of thumb when budgeting for housing.

NLIHC found that the national housing wage for a two-bedroom rental apartment is $22.10. That’s slightly more than three times the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

The map below shows the hourly wage needed to afford a fair-market rent, two-bedroom apartment by state, assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks a year, as calculated by the NLIHC.Every state's housing wage, or the hourly pay needed to afford a two-bedroom rental.

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Every state’s housing wage, or the hourly pay needed to afford a two-bedroom rental.
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Andy Kiersz

If a worker held three full-time minimum-wage jobs, they’d be earning $21.75, just under the $22.10 needed to afford rent and have 70% of income left over for other expenses. They would have to work about 122 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, just to cover rent, according to the report. To put that in perspective, there are 168 hours in the week – that leaves them with only 46 hours, less than two days, of nonwork time.

Read more: A minimum-wage worker needs 2.5 full-time jobs to afford a one-bedroom apartment in most of the US

There is no state in which a minimum-wage worker can afford a two-bedroom rental home by working a standard 40-hour work week, according to the report.

This is true even in Arkansas, which has the lowest housing wage of $13.84. The state has a minimum wage of $8.50, which means workers would need to work a full-time job and a part-time job, or 65 hours a week, to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

Fourteen states have a housing wage exceeding the national housing wage of $22 – Washington, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, plus Washington, DC.

Of all these states, Hawaii is the most expensive with a $36.13 housing wage. Here, workers earn a minimum wage of $10.10. With three jobs, that’s $30.30 – more than the national housing wage, but still not enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the state. A worker in Hawaii would need to work nearly four full-time jobs, or 143 hours a week, to afford a two-bedroom rental.