Minimum Wage
Thirty million Americans who work full time are living in poverty. The federal minimum wage in the United States is $5.15 an hour and has not been raised in almost 10 years.

Someone working full time at minimum wage earns $10,712 a year—that's $8,000 less than what the government defines as poverty.

Why should you care? These are the very people we rely on every day. They are the teachers' aides in your child's classroom. They are caring for your aging parents in the nursing home. They make sure your hotel rooms, your offices and your schools are clean. They are security guards keeping buildings safe. They are paramedics who are there in your most desperate hour.
Morgan Spurlock and his fiancee
Morgan Spurlock burst onto the scene with his innovative Oscar®-nominated documentary Super Size Me, in which he chronicled every detail of his monthlong McDonald's diet. He is also the mastermind behind the F/X show 30 Days, in which he challenges people to experience life outside of their comfort zone for a month. In one experiment, Morgan and his fiancée, Alex, left their home in New York and tried to survive for one month in Columbus, Ohio, living on minimum wage.

They agreed on three ground rules for their experiment: They had to earn minimum wage, they could start with only one week's pay in cash, and they had to freeze their credit cards.
Morgan and Alex search for jobs.
The first step for Morgan and Alex was to find an apartment within their $400-per-month price range. The only neighborhood they could afford was in "the Bottoms." At one time, the apartment below their unit was a crack house.

On day two, Morgan and Alex set out to find their low-wage jobs. Alex found a job bussing tables and washing dishes in a downtown coffee shop, and Morgan registered with a temp agency. For his first assignment the next day he was promised at least $7 an hour—$1.85 more than minimum wage. "Not bad," Morgan said.

The next day, however, Morgan and Alex got a big wake-up call. Including his bus commute, Morgan ended up spending 11 hours a day away from home and earned only $45.26. This breaks down to just $4.20 an hour.
Poverty puts a strain on their relationship
In a very short time, Morgan and Alex came to realize that even on two salaries, there was little chance they could stay on budget. Morgan decided to work a second job, which meant he spent 18 hours a day away from home. During this period he made pizzas, washed dishes, worked as a landscaper, painted and made boxes.

The financial stress put a strain on his relationship with Alex. In fact, Morgan explains, "There are twice as many divorces in families that make less than $25,000 than families that make $50,000."

Meanwhile, many low-wage households have children. Morgan and Alex got a taste of what raising kids on a shoestring budget is like when Morgan's niece and nephew came to stay for the weekend.

Morgan decided to take the weekend off to spend time with them. On one outing, they went to a dollar movie theater...but then bought drinks and candy. Alex was more than a little upset at Morgan for this "spending spree." "We're going and spending 12 bucks at the movie just on drinks. That doesn't seem very smart."
Without insurance, medical care destroys the budget
Living without medical insurance is like "living right on the edge of a knife every single day," Morgan says. As they found out, it can lead to financial ruin overnight.

Morgan says manual labor had aggravated a wrist injury, but he couldn't afford a doctor's visit. When he tried to visit a free clinic, he was told there weren't enough doctors to see him that day.

The free clinic was not even an option when Alex woke up in the middle of the night with a urinary tract infection. They went to the emergency room and to a 24-hour pharmacy to fill Alex's prescription. Later that day, the pain in Morgan's wrist forced him to go to the emergency room as well.

The bills from the emergency room were enough to significantly harm their budget. "We went to the hospital to get Alex's bill. Just for walking into the emergency room it was $300," Morgan said. "My bill? Just to walk in the door, $551. It's incredible."
Alex, Morgan and Oprah
After their experiment was over, Morgan and Alex say they were about $1,200 over their budget. "It would have taken us three months to pay it off—as long as nothing happened," Morgan says.

Seeing just how difficult living near minimum wage was, Morgan made some changes in his life. "At my own company we didn't have health care, so the minute I got back, I got everybody who worked for me health care immediately."

Morgan says he's also more aware of issues facing the millions living near the poverty line. "There are so many people who don't need a handout. They need a hand up."

Alex says it made her want the burdens of poverty eased. "It made me realize we need to talk to the people who represent us and say this needs to change on a national level," she says. "This is totally unacceptable for this country."