Nationwide, minimum wage workers are typically young and white, according to the Pew Research Center at the time of publication. Most are employed in part-time jobs. For those who work full time at minimum wages, monthly average take-home pay varies based on federal tax-filing status, number of exemptions claimed and the state in which the individual works. However, a few standard reductions to income apply to most minimum wage workers.
Suppose a worker earning minimum wage clocks 40 hours per week. Using the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour, this amounts to total gross wages of $15,080 in one calendar year. Divide this by 12 to obtain monthly wages, since not all months have the same number of days. This calculation results in $1,256.67 in monthly gross wages. Next, consider deductions.
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Although tax withholding varies from person to person based on filing status and the number of exemptions claimed, most U.S. taxpayers contribute to Social Security and Medicare. You may notice on your paycheck stub an amount for FICA taxes. This refers to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, the law that mandated the Social Security program. U.S. workers contribute 6.2 percent of wages to Social Security and 1.45 percent of wages to Medicare. These FICA taxes reduce minimum wage pay by approximately $96 per month, leaving $1,160.
Federal Income Taxes
Subtracting federal taxes withheld further reduces take-home pay. For a single taxpayer claiming one exemption, approximately $75.60 is withheld for federal income taxes each month. Married taxpayers will pay comparable federal taxes relative to the number of exemptions claimed; the more exemptions claimed, the fewer taxes are withheld. In the example for single taxpayers, this reduces net pay to $1,084.40 a month. Additionally, individuals who have insurance premiums or other payroll deductions subtracted will regularly net less.
State taxes withheld from wages vary across the nation. So do state minimum wage rates; some exceed the federal rate. In states with a lower minimum wage rate, the federal rate takes precedence.
In states with a higher rate, such as Oregon and Washington, minimum wage workers earn more than the national average. Minimum wage workers in the District of Columbia earn the most in the nation, with an hourly rate of $9.50. Workers in the state of Washington trail close, earning a minimum wage rate of $9.47 hourly.
In 2014, minimum wage workers in 31 states earned the federal rate of $7.25 hourly, and in 29 states and the District of Columbia, minimum wage workers earned more, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Based on the total number of workers, the two states with the highest percentage of individuals working for minimum wages or less are Idaho and Tennessee, according to the University of California, Davis, Center for Poverty Research.
- Internal Revenue Service: Tax Topics -- Topic 751 -- Social Security and Medicare Withholding Rates
- Pew Research Center: Who Makes Minimum Wage?
- UC Davis Center for Poverty Research: What Are the Annual Earnings for a Full-time Minimum Wage Worker?
- UC Davis Center for Poverty Research: What Are the Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers?
- U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division (WHD): Minimum Wage Laws in the States -- January 1, 2015
- Washington State University: How to Calculate Federal Withholding Tax Using the Percentage Tables
- Huffington Post: 17 Numbers That Will Make You Realize Just How Pathetic the Federal Minimum Wage Is