Minimum wage US NY 2012
Scene from a demonstration in New York in 2012 Reuters

As Walmart runs a food drive for its impoverished staff and McDonald's recommends its burger-flippers sell possessions on eBay to come up with some extra cash, the topic of living wage vs. minimum wage rages across the Internet.

And now there's a scientific tool for use in that debate. Researchers at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology have developed a living wage calculator and made it available online for websurfers so they can check what a living wage would be in a certain area or city, based on criteria like family size and cost of services.

Not surprisingly, major metropolitan centers have higher expenses while more rural locations have a cheaper cost of living.

For example, the calculator estimates that a living wage in Brooklyn, New York, for a family of two adults and three children would be a gross $26.12 an hour. That same family would be considered living in poverty at a wage of anything below $12.40 an hour. The minimum wage in New York City, of which Brooklyn is a borough, is $7.25 an hour.

Here are some charts that put the story in perspective.

The living wage in many cities across the U.S. is higher than the minimum wage MIT Living Wage Calculator
Most Americans support an increase to the minimum wage Gallup
Some argue a higher minimum wage would boost GDP and create new jobs Economic Policy Institute

Click here to run living-wage calculations for your hometown.