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How a Minimum-Wage Increase Is Being Felt in a Low-Wage City


When the wage went up, Ms. Parra said, she could more easily help with rent and pay the phone and cable bills at the apartment that she shares with her mother, who makes $18.50 an hour at a heating and air-conditioning company.

She noted, however, that her wages were not enough for her to live on her own. “I wouldn’t say that we’re poor, but I also wouldn’t say that we’re well off,” she said. “But because there is both of us who have incomes, we’re able to do O.K.”

Mayor Jerry Dyer said there were “mixed feelings, obviously,” about the rising minimum wage. “As a mayor of a city, it’s important that we have people in our community who are making a livable wage,” he said.

But Mr. Dyer, a Republican, said he also understood the pain that businesses might be feeling. “I’ve heard from businesses that if the minimum wage goes up too much, they’re not able to be competitive,” he said.

“That’s the challenge that we face,” he said.

One prevailing question is whether $15 is enough.

In Fresno, it often isn’t. M.I.T.’s Living Wage Calculator estimates that a living wage in Fresno for a family of four, with both adults working, is $22.52 an hour. In the past year, Fresno’s median rent increased by 11 percent, to $1,260, according to Apartment List’s National Rent Report, among the greatest increases in the country.

For 40 hours a week, Jessica Ramirez, 26, makes $15.65 an hour at the Amazon warehouse in Fresno. She is the primary breadwinner for herself, her partner and her five children, but even with food stamps and occasional gig work, she said, her wage is barely enough for them to get by.


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