Worcester’s Working Class Families Earn 3rd Lowest Wages in MA
Thursday, April 04, 2013
The report, titled “The Massachusetts Economic Independence Index,” shows the numbers behind cost of living, wages, and necessities, showing that compared to cities across the state, Worcester’s low-income families are earning the third lowest wages in the state.
CWU highlights policies and approaches that they feel “have the most impact on individuals and families seeking to earn a family-sustaining wage,” by looking region-by-region to see how much of a struggle low-income families must overcome.
“The Mass. Index captures the actual cost incurred by a variety of families on a regional basis (by county). The importance of accounting for regional variations is demonstrated by the significant differences in regional budgets,” the report reads.
The report calculates wages and costs across the state that affect different families and uses some basic assumptions to arrive at their figures. Numbers used for the index’s wages assume that all adults work full time, regardless of family type.
Work-related expenses such as transportation and appropriate child care are assumed and included in the budget. All children under age fourteen require before and after school care; children not attending school require full-time care. Adults are assumed to participate in employer-sponsored health insurance
The report breaks down wages into hourly and yearly amounts for four basic family types: one adult; one adult and one preschooler; one adult, one preschooler, and one school-age child; and two adults, one preschooler, and one school-age child.
In Worcester, the per hour amounts equated to $10.11 for one adult, $19.80 for one adult and one preschooler, $25.98 for one adult, one preschooler, and one school-age child, and $14.55 for two adults, one preschooler, and one school-age child.
Per year, the figures were $21,358, $41,810, $54,849, and $30,737.
“Median wages are declining, and unemployment is high, particularly among those with less than a college education, while the cost of living is increasing,” according to the report.
Numbers were lower for two cities in the Commonwealth – Springfield and North Adams. In Springfield, the per hour wage rate for each of the four family structures was $9.60, $18.25, $23.52, and $13.34. Annual rates were as low as $20,272.
Economic Independence by County
The report also rated Economic independence by county in 2010 and 2013. In 2010, Worcester County was fifth lowest with families earning $21,358 (one adult), $54,859 (one adult, one preschooler, and one school-age child), and $61,473 (two adults, one preschooler, and one school-age child).
In 2013, Worcester County was still stuck in fifth lowest place, with numbers rising only slightly: $22,464; $57,612; and $64,728. The state average in 2013 was $28,500; $65,880; and $73,776 for the three structures of families.
Counties that were rated lower than Worcester County included Franklin County with the lowest figures, followed by Hampshire County, and Hampden County.
The CWU says that the report aims to show policy makers the best practices at work to help sustain families across the Bay State and says that their report, “also provides an important benchmark to help policy makers and researchers understand the increasing challenge for working families to meet their most basic needs and the importance of helping workers build the right education and skills and choose career paths that will allow them to earn income sufficient to make ends meet.”
Measuring Economic Independence
The group says that with this measure, it is more clear how much families across the state need to sustain themselves.
“The Mass. Index is a deliberate measure of the income families require if they are to achieve a fair standard of housing, health care, nutrition, and child care while avoiding dependence on public income or work supports, such as subsidized housing or nutrition assistance,” they said.
While measuring cost of living can be challenging, the CWU used a budget organized by basic expenses: housing, utilities, food, transportation, child care, health care, personal and household expenses, and taxes.
“Achieving a Mass. Index wage represents a first step for families seeking economic independence and security,” they said.
Overcoming the Cost
CWU says that increasingly, higher education is critical to earning a sufficient income to support a family.
“As reported in CWU’s Hot Jobs 2013, most jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage require at least an associate’s degree. Median income for college-educated workers is substantially greater than that for those with a high school diploma or less,” they said, based on recent Census data.
Over the years, the group has seen trends including the increase of rental costs increased across the state, which they said can be expected to continue to increase.
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