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Analysis: What if Illinois raised the minimum wage?

The advisory referendum that Illinois Democrats have placed on the November ballot to raise the state minimum wage to $10 per hour is non-binding. Republicans have called the measure “meaningless.” However, if the state legislature were to actually take up—and pass—a bill raising wages to $10 per hour, it would springboard Illinois to the top of state minimum wages.

Three states and Washington D.C. currently have minimum wages of $9 or more per hour, and the wage in two of those—Washington state and Oregon—could pass $10 when they are adjusted for cost-of-living increases next year. Several other states have planned increases to $10 or more per hour by 2017 or 2018.

But since the cost of living in Illinois is lower than it is in Washington state, $10 per hour is worth about as much here as $10.25 per hour in Washington. This means Illinois’ low-wage workers would take home more pay annually than low-wage workers in Washington when adjusted for cost of living.

The map below shows how much someone making the state-mandated minimum wage makes in a year (assuming a 40 hour work week), adjusted for regional cost of living differences, with Illinois shown as having a hypothetical state minimum wage of $10 per hour. (The federal minimum wage of $7.25, which covers most businesses except those exempted, is not applied.)

Hover over each state to see how Illinois compares:

Notes: The following states have legislated annual cost-of-living increases that will go into effect on January 1, 2015: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Washington. The wages shown for those states are as of August 1, 2014. Minimum wage data is from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Cost of living adjustments are based on 2012 Regional Price Parities published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.