Purchasing Power and the Right to Work


Do right-to-work (RTW) laws create the “right to work for less”?

New Mexico’s union supporters claim that the “average worker makes about $5,000 less in RTW states”1 and that if passed, a right-to-work law will induce “greater expenditures for subsidized food, housing and health care for newly hired workers who will never make a living wage.”2

But RTW opponents fail to adjust their figures for purchasing power. The oversight fatally undercuts their argument, because the cost of living varies significantly in the United States.

In April 2014, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released, for the first time, “a comprehensive and consistent measure of differences in the cost of living … nationwide.”3 With 100 set as the level for the entire country, price parities ranged from a high of 117.2 in Hawaii to a low of 86.4 in Mississippi. (New Mexico’s score was 94.8.)