Missouri vs. The Highest Minimum Wage State: Which State Wins?
So what state in the US has the highest minimum wage, and how does it compare to Missouri?
The state with the highest Minimum Wage is Washington State. In the state of Washington, the minimum wage is $15.74 an hour. Additionally, tipped employees must be paid a minimum wage of $15.74 as well, plus their tips. This is according to the NOLO website. Additionally, the cities of Seattle and SeaTac have a higher minimum wage than Washington state.
Missouri's minimum wage is $12.00 an hour, and if you happen to work for a retail or service business whose gross income is $500,000 or less, they can pay employees wages of their choosing. (Gross income is gross revenue minus the cost of goods sold.) This is according to Missouri's Department of Labor & Industrial Relations.
The State also says tipped employees only need to be paid $6.00 an hour, however, the employer is responsible for making sure tipped employees make a minimum of $12.00 including tips. So if the tips don't bring the employee up to $12.00 employers are responsible for making up the difference. Except of course, for those employers whose gross income is under $500,000. They can pay employees wages of their choosing.
According to Kansas City, the State of Missouri probits cities from enacting a higher minimum wage than the one used in the rest of the State.
So how does Missouri compare to Washington? Just looking at the minimum wage policies set forth by the states, you'd assume Washington State has Missouri beat. Yet, it's not just about the money you take home in your paycheck, it's also how much money you need to live.
If you worked 40 hours a week, 52 weeks of the year in Washington State, you'll earn just under $33,000 per year. In Missouri, if you worked 40 hours a week, 52 weeks of the year you'll earn just under $25,000. Of course, many minimum wage workers aren't working 40 hours a week, and they may also not get paid time off, so these are best-case numbers.
In 2022, Washington State just missed the top 10 states with the highest cost of living by two, ranking 12th in the nation. While Missouri was in the top 10 states with the lowest cost of living. This is according to wisevoter.
Wisevoter says in 2022, the average living wage in Missouri was $16.29, while the average living wage in Washington was $18.54. You'll note both states' minimum wages are below the wage someone needs to earn to take care of themselves and their families.
Wisevoter says Washington State's high cost of living is being driven by high taxes, a housing shortage, and a population influx. While Missouri's affordability is being driven by affordable housing, lower utility costs, a lower tax burden, and a lower-than-average cost of goods and services.
So which state wins? Neither, if you're a minimum wage worker. The bottom line is you're just not going to earn enough to meet the average living wage, and you might have to work more than one job to make ends meet.
That said, for my money, Missouri's lower cost of living wins. It's not just the cost of living either- but the actual lower utility costs, lower taxes, and lower cost of stuff that makes me prefer Missouri.