Writings and observations

Working to live

The latest wage gap study for the Northwest is out, published as usual by the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, and once again required reading for anyone trying to evaluate the realities of life in the region, even if the results aren’t all that different from last year.

Living wage reportWages have been rising in recent years, a little, but the report documents how the amount needed for a “living wage” – the amount of money needed to practically support a person or a family in a given place at a given time, has been steadily rising – in larget part because of the explosion of health care and insurance costs.

Is full-time work enough to aff ord a family’s basic needs and ensure an adequate standard of living?
While most people would suggest that work should be enough, the data presented in the Northwest Job Gap Study show that often this is not the case. Even as economic reports herald a strong and growing economy, this prosperity continues to be a false promise for many families, for whom living wage work remains out of reach. In the Northwest and around the nation, many people – particularly people of color – are finding that working full time does not provide a sufficient salary to meet their basic needs.
The Northwest Job Gap Study: Living Wage Jobs in the Current Economy demonstrates the reality that working people experience. Using an analysis of public data from a range of state and federal sources, this study calculates a basic family budget for different family structures in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Based on this “living wage,” the study then estimates the number and proportion of current jobs in the Northwest that provide a suffi cient wage to support an individual or a family’s basic needs without relying on public assistance.
The findings show that working full time is often not enough to maintain an adequate standard of living. Even dual-income families, where both adults are using all of the resources at their disposal to earn a living, often find they are not earning enough.

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