MIT article on the Living Wage Calculator project

Research November 28, 2018

MIT News recently wrote a piece highlighting the Living Wage Calculator.

This is an app that we built for Dr. Amy Glasmeier that draws from several government and private data sources in order to calculate what it actually costs for a family or an individual to survive in a given location in the United States. It takes into account the bare minimum local prices for rent, transportation, food, childcare, and other variables. And then it converts that cost to an hourly wage — that person’s living wage — so that it can be compared to the legal minimum wage for that location, and the average wage that various industries usually pay in that region.

There are so many things that I love about this project.

First and foremost, we value our long-time partnership with Dr. Glasmeier. She is one of the one of the most forward-thinking researchers on poverty in America. It’s hard to believe that this project began in 2003, as one of West Arete’s very first projects. Even at that early date, she knew the magnitude of the impact that the project could have and she clearly conveyed that vision to us.

We’ve always welcomed the technical challenge of building a high-traffic site that can rise to the top of Google search rankings and stay there for more than a decade. It’s the type of challenge that we gravitate to, and the careful attention to speed, optimization, and data organization paid off.

But nothing compares to the feeling when we found out that tens of thousands of employees got a raise in part because of this project. And these are the employees that truly needed a raise more than anyone.

We’re humbled by the extent to which this app and its partners have been able to shape the national conversation around precisely how much businesses can responsibly pay their employees. Companies like IKEA and Patagonia, partners like ODN, and organizations like LISC and Just Capital are leading the way.

As Dr. Glasmeier says in the article, “more and more people are understanding that the current system just isn’t going to work. We need to allow people to live and work without going into debt.”

The Living Wage Calculator is a great example of what visionary research can achieve with a strong circle of community partnerships. Cheers to Dr. Glasmeier and to all of the partners and collaborators on the project for banding together to create this kind of positive impact. We’re looking forward to helping to push this movement further.

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