Five Stories That Show Wages in Miami Are Far Too Low

Florida's state minimum wage is just $8.15 per hour, and it's illegal for individual cities to raise their own minimum wages independently. (Miami Beach tried and the governor sued.) In general, Miami's wage rates are staggeringly low compared to other metro areas of its size: The city's two main industries are real estate and hospitality, and if you're not selling beachfront condos to yacht brokers, you're likely scraping by on a service-industry salary. Unlike New York or San Francisco, the Magic City has no tech scene to boost local wages.

The city's relatively low wages show: Here are five recent stories that illustrate just how rough it is for Miamians trying to scrape by:

1. Miami is ranked the second-worst city in America when it comes to income and poverty level.

Of the top 25 metro areas, Miami has the second-lowest median household income in the United States. According to the Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey, the median household earned only $51,362 per year, putting the Magic City just a measly $247 ahead of Tampa, the metro area with the nation's lowest median income. Rounding out the bottom three is another Florida city, Orlando, where the household median income is only $52,385.

2. Miamians spend the nation's highest share of their incomes on rent.

On Saturday, the Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released their regular American Housing Survey, which tracked housing affordability trends in the nation's 25 largest metropolitan areas. According to that data, Miamians spend 27 percent of their income on rent, a percentage that tops every other major metro in the United States.

Only Los Angeles, Riverside-San Bernardino (California), northern New Jersey, and New York City came close: Residents in New York and L.A. spent 25 percent of their income on rent, and northern New Jersey and Riverside residents spent a median of 26 percent.

The data shows that Miami, more than any city in the nation, is suffering from a one-two punch: Rents keep on rising, but jobs that pay living wages have remained scarce.

3. Most people of color in Miami have nothing in their savings accounts.

A study by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit think tank, released yesterday lays bare how much Miami's high rents and cost of living harms people of color. According to the report, 74 percent of Miami's black and Latino population lives in "liquid asset poverty," meaning they don't have enough savings to cover their basic life expenses for three months. 

4. More than 20 percent of Miami's women live in poverty.

That's according to a new report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which also found troubling trends statewide. The study, which uses data from the U.S. Census and local agencies, shows that the number of women in Florida living in poverty has grown since 2004, from 12.6 to 15.4 percent.

Miami has one of the higher rates of female poverty in the state: 20.5 percent. (That's compared to 16.6 percent of men in Miami-Dade living in poverty.)

That's not the worst rate in Florida — that distinction belongs to rural areas such as Hardee County, where an eye-popping 29 percent of women live below the line — but it is a troubling figure, especially considering that other statistics suggest women are making economic strides in the Magic City.

5. A domestic worker in Miami making $30,000 per year told New Times in July that the only thing she can save up for is her funeral:

What are you saving for right now?

My funeral, I guess. And that's not a joke. What is there to save up for? I'm 54 years old, I'm a low-income worker and sometimes no income. If my patients die tomorrow, I don't know if I'll be able to get a job. So there's the fear of 'What if I get a house or an apartment and I couldn't pay my mortgage anymore?' The fear of homelessness is real... As a domestic worker, I have accumulated nothing.

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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.