Data Pandas Logo

Livable Wage By State

Livable Wage By State


For decades, the conversation centering around wages has been of utmost significance to the American workforce. While the federal minimum wage has been stagnant at $7.25 per hour since 2009, the cost of living has seen steady progressions year on year. This causes attention to turn to the concept of the 'livable wage'— the income necessary to sustain an individual or a family's basic needs without the reliance on external aid or subsidies. With discrepancies across states due to varying costs of living, it becomes vital to dissect and study the rates of livable wages in each state .Using the living wage data from MIT's Living Wage Calculator, we have collated the livable wage figures across all 50 states. 

  • A prominent pattern that emerges is that coastal states tend to have higher livable wages, with Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, California, and New Jersey leading the pack.
  • Conversely, the states with the lowest livable wages are predominantly rural and situated in the Midwest and South. This lower cost of living could be due to lower housing costs and lower population density.
  • Regionally, Northeastern and Western states generally require higher livable wages than Southern and Midwestern states. 
  • Surprisingly, states like Oklahoma and Arkansas, known for their low cost of living, rank below the national average concerning their livable wages.

Most Expensive States to Live In

The Most Expensive States to Live In are primarily located on the American coasts and are characterized by high costs of living and similarly high livable wage requirements. Topping the list is Hawaii, where residents need an average annual income of $45,739 to cover their basic needs without relying on external aid. This higher livable wage benchmark can be attributed to the state's unique geographical location leading to high costs for food, housing, and other essential commodities.

New York, an epicenter for finance and culture, shares the top spot with Hawaii. Its higher livable wage of $45,739 annually can be reasoned by the state's housing expenses—particularly in New York City—and higher costs associated with transportation and utilities.

The Northeastern state of Massachusetts follows closely with a required annual income of $45,510 to meet the living wage criterion. The state's high costs for healthcare and education significantly impact the living wage calculation. 

Similarly, California's combination of housing affordability challenges and high healthcare costs necessitates an annual income of $45,386 to meet the living needs. New Jersey wraps up our top five most expensive states with a livable wage of $42,786. 

Proceeding down the list, we find that Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Colorado and Connecticut also require higher livable wages, ranging from $39,520 in Connecticut to $41,059 in Maryland. 

Most Expensive States to Live In:

  1. Hawaii - $45,739
  2. New York - $45,739
  3. Massachusetts - $45,510
  4. California - $45,386
  5. New Jersey - $42,786
  6. Maryland - $41,059
  7. Oregon - $40,581
  8. Virginia - $40,352
  9. Colorado - $39,853
  10. Connecticut - $39,520

Least Expensive States to Live In

Taking the lead as the state with the lowest livable wage is South Dakota. An individual living in this state would need to earn approximately $30,888 per year to cover basic needs and uphold a modest standard of living. Following closely, Wyoming holds the second lowest livable wage state, requiring slightly more at $31,720 per year.

North Dakota comes in third with a livable wage depicting $31,970 as the baseline income. Fourth is West Virginia, where $32,136 is deemed enough for a basic standard of living, a figure matched uniquely by Tennessee, which ties at the same rank.

Kentucky follows as the sixth lowest, with a necessary livable wage tallying up to $32,157 annually. Arkansas appears seventh on the list with a livable wage calculated at $32,344, closely trailed by Ohio commanding $32,469. 

With a marginal increase, Mississippi's livable wage is $32,573, earning it the 9th spot on this list. Residing in the final rung is Oklahoma, requiring an annual income of $32,760 to achieve a basic standard of living.

States with the Lowest Livable Wage:

  1. South Dakota - $30,888
  2. Wyoming - $31,720
  3. North Dakota - $31,970
  4. West Virginia - $32,136
  5. Tennessee - $32,136
  6. Kentucky - $32,157
  7. Arkansas - $32,344
  8. Ohio - $32,469
  9. Mississippi - $32,573
  10. Oklahoma - $32,760

Full Data Set

Frequently Asked Questions


State Name

Sample Content
Need Help?:
Need the full dataset or have any questions? Our team is happy to help. Contact us at: [email protected]