Earlier this week my wife and I announced that she will be a stay-at-home-mom when we have our first child in a couple months. We feel both blessed and excited to have this opportunity because we both know many people simply cannot afford to raise a family on one salary.
Our grandparents did it… why can’t we?
My dad’s parents immigrated to the US after WWII. They moved to California and raised 7 children on one salary. That seems even more amazing when you realize my grandfather did not have a college education – he primarily worked as a truck driver and delivery man. My dad told me they never had a lot of luxuries, but they also never went without the essentials. They lived a normal middle class American life.
In today’s American society, families with 7 children are rare. It would be even more rare to see a blue collar worker head a family of 7 children and not struggle to live a normal middle class life. So what happened between then and now? Why is it such a struggle to get by?
What is a living wage… and does it exist anymore?
A living wage is:
“the minimum hourly wage necessary for a person to achieve some specific standard of living… this standard generally means that a person working forty hours a week, with no additional income, should be able to afford a specified quality or quantity of housing, food, utilities, transport, health care, and recreation.” (from Wikipedia).
A living wage is not “the minimum wage.” Notice the definition didn’t state that a living wage is the “minimum wage” set by a government. A living wage is the minimum amount of money one must earn to afford a standard quality of life. Many states and localities have enacted a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage because the federal minimum wage is not sufficient for many people to live on.
Does a living wage exist in the US? There are millions of people struggling to get by in the US. I’m not talking about addicts or lazy people. I’m talking about people who work hard every day and strive to improve themselves and their situation. A good example of this can be seen in the documentary, Waging a Living. The documentary follows 4 individuals as they struggle to get by while working jobs at or slightly above the minimum pay level. Waging a Living was a powerful documentary and it was difficult to watch because you see how much of a struggle it is for many people to get by.
Why is it such a struggle? I can’t believe that people don’t work as hard today as they did just a few decades ago. But it seems like more people have trouble getting by. Why is that?
I won’t pretend to have the answer, but I would love to read your opinions.