‘By the grace of God’: How workers survive on $7.25 per hour

David Friedman / NBC News

Meet Crystal Dupont and John White. Both are struggling to live on minimum wage, one at the start of her career and the other toward the end of his.

By Allison Linn, Staff Writer, NBC News

Crystal Dupont knows what it’s like to try to live on the federal minimum wage.

Dupont has no health insurance, so she hasn’t seen a doctor in two years. She’s behind on her car payments and has taken out pawn shop and payday loans to cover other monthly expenses. She eats beans and oatmeal when her food budget gets low.

When she got her tax refund recently, she used the money to get ahead on her light bill.

“I try to live within my means, but sometimes you just can’t,” said Dupont, 25. The Houston resident works 30 to 40 hours a week taking customer service calls, earning between $7.25 and $8 an hour. That came to about $15,000 last year.

It’s a wage she’s lived on for a while now, but just barely.

About 3.6 million Americans were earning at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in 2012, and those weren’t all high school students flipping burgers.

About half of them were 25 or older, a little more than one-third were working full time and a little less than three-fourths had graduated from high school, according to the most recent government data

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