Mission: To enable anyone to calculate the living wage needed to support him or herself and a family.
Background: The MIT Living Wage Calculator got its start as part of a Ford Foundation-sponsored reexamination of poverty policy in the United States. The calculator itself was built in 2003 by Tracey Farrigan, then an economic geographer in the Department of Geography at Penn State, and has been continuously updated since then by West Arete, a Web design and technology tool developer headquartered in State College. In 2009, the tool was migrated to MIT under the direction of Amy Glasmeier, who had joined the School of Architecture and Planning's (SAP) Urban Studies and Planning Department (DUSP). Today, the Living Wage Calculator team contracts with DUSP alumna Carey Anne Nadeau, a principal at Open Data Nation, for technical assistance, advice, and annual data updates, and West Arete, which provides updates and periodic redesigns of the tool. Relaunched in March and now in its fifth iteration, the tool is part of an informal network of like-minded efforts that includes the Economic Policy Institute's Family Budget Tool and the University of Washington's Self Sufficiency Standard, all of which share the same objective: to identify the level of income required to support individuals and families in America.
Outstanding Web Features: The Living Wage Tool lets anyone calculate the living wage, adjusted by community, needed to support an individual and a family. Factored into the calculation are the cost of basic needs such as housing, food, health care, transportation, childcare and utilities and the hourly wage required to pay for those basics. Plug in a state, city, or county anywhere in the U.S. and the tool compares the hypothetical living wage for that community to the actual minimum wage and the poverty wage. The tool also breaks down the individual expenses that factor into the living wage estimate, as well as typical annual salaries for various professions in a given location. In addition to updating the UX, MIT recently launched a partnership program for the tool focused on identifying organizations that advocate for, support payment of, and/or actually pay a living wage.