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Study: El Pasoans would benefit the most in US with minimum wage hike to $15

A new study by LendingTree looked at the country’s 100 largest metros and compared a $15 minimum wage to living costs in each area, and El Paso came out on top in the U.S.

According to the study, the $15 minimum wage would cover living wages in nearly two-thirds of the 100 largest metros, with El Paso taking the top spot. El Paso is joined by the Toledo and McAllen metro areas benefitting the most from a $15 minimum wage.

Among the top 10 — well, 11 since there was a tie for the last spot — metros that would benefit the most from a $15 minimum wage, four are in the South and in the Midwest:

While many metros would benefit from an increase to a $15 minimum wage, the metros that have already adopted it have one thing in common: Their living wage requirements are already more than $15 an hour.

This isn’t surprising as these locations are high-cost areas. In fact, all six cities (not looking at the metros) have median gross rent amounts at least $380 more than the national average of $1,062.


  • Residents of El Paso, Texas, would benefit the most from a $15 minimum wage. The increase would provide residents in this metro with wages exceeding basic living costs — $12.40 — by 21%. Raising the minimum wage to $15 in El Paso would be a 107% increase from the current amount, $7.25.
  • Residents of Toledo, Ohio, and McAllen, Texas, would similarly benefit from a $15 minimum wage. Wages would exceed standard living costs by 19.8% in Toledo (living wage of $12.52) and 18.8% in McAllen (living wage of $12.63) if the minimum wage were raised to $15. The current minimum wage is $8.80 in Toledo and $7.25 in McAllen.
  • Six metros among the 100 largest have minimum wages of at least $15. Those six metros are Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.
  • Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 would cover estimated living wages for a single person with no children in nearly two-thirds of the metros reviewed. On the extreme end, the $15.45 minimum wage in San Jose falls short of a basic local living wage — $25.12 — by 38.5%, so residents here would need additional help.

Of the 100 largest metros examined, raising the minimum wage to $15 would exceed living wages in 63 areas.

“A $15 minimum wage would be nothing short of life-changing for many Americans,” says Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst. “It would make it easier for folks to keep food on the table, pay their bills and so much more. In many parts of the country, $15 per hour still isn’t enough to help Americans make ends meet fully, but there’s no question that it could make a huge, huge difference in the everyday lives of many, many hard-working Americans.”

Metros that would benefit the most
Rank Metro Minimum hourly wage Living wage Overage of $15 minimum wage to living wage
1 El Paso, Texas $7.25 $12.40 21%
2 Toledo, Ohio $8.80 $12.52 19.8%
3 McAllen, Texas $7.25 $12.63 18.8%
4 Spokane, Wash. $13.69 $12.69 18.2%
5 (tie) Harrisburg, Pa. $7.25 $12.84 16.8%
5 (tie) Chattanooga, Tenn. $7.25 $12.84 16.8%
7 Dayton, Ohio $8.80 $12.87 16.6%
8 Knoxville, Tenn. $7.25 $12.98 15.6%
9 Pittsburgh $7.25 $13.08 14.7%
10 (tie) Wichita, Kan. $7.25 $13.10 14.5%
10 (tie) Akron, Ohio $8.80 $13.10 14.5%

According to researchers, in 10 of the 11 metros here, a $15 minimum wage would represent a 71% to 107% rise in wages. For example, a jump from $8.80 to $15 in Toledo would boost wages by 71%.

Even more prominently, a jump from $7.25 to $15 in McAllen would boost wages by 107%.

But it’s Spokane, Wa., that stands out among the crowd. The metro already has a minimum wage that exceeds the living wage, yet it still ranks fourth on the list. And at $13.69, a rise to $15 would only represent a 10% increase in the minimum wage. But its low living wage — $12.69 — helps propel it toward the top of the list.

However, in those remaining areas where a high living wage is at or over $15, this hypothetical increase wouldn’t be as impactful. And, as mentioned earlier, some of these areas already have a minimum wage above $15, so there would be no impact.

Metros with minimum wages of $15
Metro Minimum hourly wage Living wage
Washington, D.C. $15 $19.97
New York $15 $20
Los Angeles $15 $19.22
San Jose, Calif. $15.45 $25.12
San Francisco $16.32 $22.88
Seattle $16.69 $18.56

Interestingly, the West is home to the most metros where a $15 minimum wage would prove ineffective, claiming six of the bottom 10 metros.

For example, San Francisco’s $16.32 minimum wage falls short of a living wage by 28.7%. And even if the minimum wage in Honolulu rose from $10.10 to $15, it would still fall 25.9% short. So while it would largely prove helpful, it’s not a solution for all.

While minimum wage is being debated on a national stage, six metros already have a $15 minimum wage.

Using data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator, analysts calculated where raising the federal minimum wage to $15 would have the largest effect toward meeting the baseline living wage for a single person with no children in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”).

Current state and municipal minimum wages were sourced from the LaborLawCenter, nonprofit research group Minimum Wage and state and municipal Department of Labor websites.

The highest available wage within each MSA was used.