Today’s Read: Low Wages Are Leaving Millions of Workers Behind
One of the primary causes of homelessness is skyrocketing housing prices in the face of stagnating incomes. Too many New Yorkers barely scrape by on minimum-wage salaries – just one missed paycheck or unexpected medical bill away from eviction.
An estimated one-third of homeless families in New York City are working but unable to afford market-rate rents. And the affordability gap is only widening, as seen in the increased number of working people who still can’t afford to make rent: The number of homeless shelter residents who are employed rose 57 percent between 2010 and 2013. New York State recently announced it would raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 per hour by 2018, but employees in other industries are still struggling to get by on the state’s current $8.75-an-hour minimum wage. For this reason, the Coalition and other members of the Homes for Every New Yorker partnership have advocated for a $15 per hour minimum wage throughout New York City.
A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that low wages are largely responsible for a stubbornly high poverty rate nationwide. According to the International Business Times:
Almost 15 percent of the American population was in poverty last year, according to a U.S. Census Bureau annual report released Wednesday. High by historical standards, that official rate of 14.8 percent is up 0.3 percent over the previous year. To be sure, children and the elderly make up a large chunk of the roughly 47 million people in poverty, the largest number ever in American history. But one of the big reasons why the rate remains stubbornly high, six years after the so-called Great Recession, is low wages. Today’s income gains flow largely to the wealthy, and the scraps aren’t trickling down to the working class.
“People feel like they’re working more and more, but barely keeping their heads above water,” says Stephen Pimpare, an expert on poverty and lecturer at the University of New Hampshire. “They’re not wrong, they’re not imagining that.”
In 2014, about 7 percent of full-time workers met the definition, while 16 percent of all people who worked “less than full-time” were in poverty. Contrary to myths about welfare queens and food-stamp surfer bums, Pimpare says, “Poor people who can work, do work.”