The subject of a living wage comes up a lot in the news, in political debates, and in social discourses of all kinds lately. Politicians throw it around as if they have a clue what it means, which always irks me. Personally, when I hear the phrase, I always wonder who gets to decide what constitutes a living wage. Furthermore, just what kind of living are we talking about? Evidently, a researcher at MIT, Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier, wondered the same thing. So, about ten years ago she recruited graduate research assistants and others to help her determine, for any given area in the US, exactly how much a person or a couple would need to earn, for themselves and their dependents, to exceed the poverty threshold. I first heard about her project on good old NPR on my way home one day. She explained that it took a long time to gather all the data, and that they do need updates for a lot of the information. Nevertheless, I am sharing a link to her page here so that readers can see what an actual living wage means, at least to a scholar who studies economic geography. Bear in mind, this is not necessarily what politicians or business owners mean when they talk about a “living wage.” Dr. Glasmeier’s calculator is about finding out what it really takes to have enough (not a surplus–that is, no savings, vacations, riding lessons for the kids or anything like that).
I invite you to check it out (there are some updates included) below. You will find the link to the living wage calculator on the RH side of the Poverty in America page, in the middle:
I have more to say on this subject, particularly since I live in Maine, where class looms large in social relations and public and intimate discourse, so look for future posts and I hope to elicit the experiences of others in an ongoing thread.