How much is a living wage in California?

California's current minimum wage is $15.50 an hour.  But do you think it's enough to survive?

Over the last two decades, California has raised its minimum wage every few years, CalMatters reports, but a new bill aims to stabilize the "living wage" as Californians deal with the extremely high cost of living and inflation.

Senate Bill 352, introduced by Sen. Steve Padilla (D-San Diego), would require California to create and maintain a calculation of a "living wage" - which the bill defines as how much a worker would need to earn to afford basic housing in their county.

"California has one of the nation’s highest minimum wages at $15.50 per hour, but suffers some of the nation’s highest poverty rates due to high living expenses, primarily driven by housing and childcare costs," Sen. Padilla said in a statement announcing the bill.

The bill would also require California's Workforce Development Board to recommend to the legislature the minimum wage needed each year to afford housing in each county and recommend a way to adjust that figure to reflect the inflation costs. 


According to United Way of California’s Real Cost Measure, 1 in 3 households in California – over 3.5 million families – do not earn enough to make ends meet.

 "If you continue to just every few years sort of decide on a (minimum wage) number and prescribe it, you run the risk that by the time that gets implemented, other factors you don’t control, like the housing market, are way out of reach," Padilla said.

With a minimum wage of $15.50, it would take two full-time jobs to afford a one-bedroom, and 2.7 full-time jobs to afford a two-bedroom, a Zillow analysis found. Minimum-wage workers need three roommates or four jobs to afford a two-bedroom rental in Los Angeles, according to that same analysis.

Rent affordability is better in cities with higher minimum wages, even in expensive markets, the analysis found.

Eligibility for government assistance programs like CalFresh and MediCal is determined by how much each household makes in relation to national poverty measures. It does not factor in California's higher cost of living

It was also announced earlier this year that the COVID-19 emergency allotment for SNAP benefits as part of CalFresh would end in March. This means millions of Californians will see a major decrease in their monthly funds by April.


"The current wage standard dooms workers to around the clock labor just to make ends meet. California workers and their families should be able to afford housing in the communities that they work," said Sen. Padilla. "The cost of housing and goods and insufficient wages have incapacitated communities and created a class of individuals that cannot break the cycle of poverty. So much of our focus has been on the supply side of the problem – housing. Now we need to turn our attention to the real need for change in how workers are paid."

Next year, California voters will decide on two wage-related measures - one would raise the state minimum wage to $18, and the other would create a fast food industry council that would have the ability to raise fast-food workers' minimum wages to $22 an hour.