Calling EPI today, I learned that the federal minimum wage is going up tomorrow, all the way to $6.55, but it's not going up that much: 23 states and the District of Columbia already have higher mandated pay rates. The raise only affects about 40 percent of the workforce.

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This is not a living wage. Especially given rising costs, the trend in the past years[PDF] has been for wages not to meet productivity increases, much less inflation -- both important indicators of income inequality. A person working full-time at minimum wage cannot afford a non-government subsidized two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States -- and most low-income people live in non-subsidized housing. While any raise in minimum wage is a good idea in the current economic climate, it's important to keep in mind that this number is not pegged to inflation and still leaves a family of two below the poverty line.

"Congress should definitely review what workers really need to get by," Mary Gable, an EPI policy analyst, told me.

-- Tim Fernholz

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