The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the first of his three-part illustrated series on voting rights in America, comic journalist Andy Warner tells the story of the Voting Rights Act. Scroll through the slideshow or read it as a single image graphic below.
Charts and Infographics
Charts and infographics illustrating key statistics
Following up on his last cartoon infographic exploring “the poverty threshold” in the United States, graphic journalist Andy Warner digs into the concept behind “the poverty line,” the origins of that measurement and why it’s considered so outdated today. View it below in full, or in segments as a slideshow. Continue reading
It pays to put people under.
That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, which ranked anesthesiologists as America’s highest-paid workers in 2012, earning a mean annual salary of nearly $235,000, or an average of roughly $113.
In fact, contrary to popular belief, the nation’s top wage earners are more likely to be sporting scrubs and white coats in hospitals than wearing suits and cufflinks in board rooms: the10 highest-paid professions are in the medical field, including surgeon, general practitioner, orthodontist, obstetrician and psychiatrist, the BLS report found, based on data gathered from nearly 1.2 million businesses. Notorious for what is commonly considered excessive compensation, chief executives have a surprisingly low rank (relatively speaking, of course) of 11 on the top wage totem, with a mean annual wage of just under $177,000.
And then there’s the opposite extreme …
Food service industry workers, particularly those in fast-food jobs, are overwhelmingly represented among the ranks of America’s lowest wage-earners. Among the millions of Americans working these jobs, the average wage hovers around $9 an hour, amounting to less than $19,000 a year. All of these jobs offer less than half the earnings of the average U.S. wage, which the BLS puts at $45,790 (up slightly from the previous year).
With a mean hourly wage of under $9 an hour, or $18,600 a year, the occupation of shampooer was actually the lowest wage-earning profession on the list, making on average, less than 12 times the earnings of an anesthesiologist. Farmworkers and laborers, while fairing slightly better than food service workers, were near the bottom as well, earning an average of less than $20,000 a year.
The extreme wage gaps between America’s highest and lowest paid workers gets even bigger when perks and benefits (or lack thereof) are considered. Health care, for instance, which isn’t offered in many low-wage jobs, can often represent about a third of a worker’s salary.
As it turns out, a lot of the workers who make Happy Meals aren’t actually all that happy about it.
It was a sentiment made abundantly clear in late August during a wave of one-day walkouts, in which thousands of fast-food workers around the country took to the streets to demand higher wages and the opportunity to join a union. Spurred by protests in New York that began last November, and supported by the Service Employees International Union, the demonstrations took place in front of about 1,000 restaurants – from McDonald’s and Burger King to Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway — in 60 cities throughout the country.
In 2012, the median hourly wage for a fast-food worker was a little under $9, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But among the millions of fast-food workers in America, many earn at or near the federal minimum wage; just $7.25 an hour. Assuming a 40-hour week, that translates to about $15,000 a year, far below the cost of living pretty much anywhere in the United States, and well under half the median salary of all U.S. workers. Add to that the cost of health care and other benefits that most fast-food workers don’t receive or have to pay mostly pay out of pocket, and you’re looking at a pretty financially strapped work force.
The federal minimum wage, last raised in 2009, hasn’t kept pace with the rate of inflation. It’s a disparity that’s prompted the Obama administration to push for an increase to $9 an hour, a proposal opposed by most conservatives in Congress and unlikely to be approved in the near future. (In a handful of states the minimum wage is slightly higher, including California where it’s $8 an hour. Washington State has the highest minimum wage in the country, at $9.19 an hour.)
“People can’t survive on the minimum wage,” Taco Bell employee Roberto Tejada told the New York Times. At the Los Angeles Taco Bell where he works, Tejada makes $8 an hour “Nobody who works full time should live in poverty,” he said.
Following a recent trend in which more employees in blue- and white-collar jobs are demanding better working conditions, the fast-food protests are unique in that they are targeting the entire industry rather than individual companies.
But many fast-food restaurant executives and franchise owners argue that the business model they operate under doesn’t allow for them to significantly raise wages without passing the costs directly onto American consumers and their insatiable demand for cheap food.
Because of how inexpensive most fast food is, the industry operates under very low profit margins. It means that companies might make a profit of mere pennies from each burger or bucket of chicken sold, and must therefore produce and sell in huge volumes at the lowest possible cost — including the cost of labor — in order to generate large cumulative profits.
Essentially, what it comes down to is that higher wages for workers would mean either the fast-food companies or the consumers would have to foot the bill, a notion that neither seems seems particularly willing to do.
“There’s no room in the fast-food business model for substantially higher pay levels without raising the prices for food,” Richard Adams, who runs a fast-food consulting firm, told the Associated Press.
The industry also commonly notes that it provides millions of jobs — albeit low-paid ones — to unskilled workers who might otherwise be unemployed.
Traditionally, the fast-food industry employed a mostly young work force, including a large number of teenagers working part time while in school. Today, however, a growing number of workers in the industry are significantly older, and many depend on wages to feed their families. According to an analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think-tank that created a profile of the nation’s fast-food workforce based on recent census data, almost 40 percent of fast-food workers are 25 or older; more than 30 percent have at least some college experience; and more than a quarter have children.
As a result a growing percentage of fast-food workers rely on food stamps and other forms of public assistance to get by.
The infographic below, produced by Lisa Mahapatra of the International Business Times illustrates the data presented in the CEPR study.
In late August of 1963, on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, about a quarter million demonstrators converged on the National Mall in the nation’s capital to partake in what would become one of the largest human rights demonstrations in U.S. history.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as it became known, drew a majority African-American presence. Demonstrators arrived by the busload — many from Southern states where Jim Crow segregation policies were still alive and well — to demand greater legal and economic rights. They marched peacefully towards the Lincoln Memorial, and listened to the impassioned speeches of some of most outspoken civil rights leaders of the day, including Martin Luther King, Jr., who delivered his seminal “I Have a Dream” address. The speakers articulated a clear, carefully crafted set of demands, underscoring, as King stated, “the fierce urgency of now.” Continue reading
Click on the fire icons in the interactive map below for updated information about each currently active fire in the U.S. Then zoom in to see the actual perimeter of the fires.
As of Friday, August 9, 36 wildfires were burning in eight western states and Alaska, including six in California and nine new large fires in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Already this year, more than 2.5 million acres have gone up in smoke — an area bigger than Yellowstone National Park. And that’s actually a lot smaller than its been at this point in some recent years (last year, almost twice as many acres had burned by early August). Continue reading
The U.S. Census Bureau recently launched a nifty free interactive search tool that allows users to obtain basic demographic and economic statistics for every single congressional district in the United States. The expansive web-app uses the most recent data from the Census’ American Community Survey, an annual study that provides detailed statical portraits of communities across the country. Users can explore their own congressional districts for key data on demographics, jobs, housing characteristics, economic status, and education level. The one catch is that you have to know what congressional district you live in. But don’t fret! You can search for that right here, in yet another handy government web app.
Take it for a spin.
A Florida jury’s verdict earlier this month that acquitted George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, instantly fueled angry protests across the nation. From Atlanta to Oakland, demonstrators took to the streets, condemning the verdict as racially biased.
Despite the high visibility and widespread occurrence of these protests, however, the American public remains sharply divided in its reaction to the case, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted about a week after the verdict. Continue reading
Try this on for size:
In 1960, an average American household spent over 10 percent of its income on clothing and shoes – equivalent to roughly $4,000 today. The average person bought fewer than 25 garments each year. And about 95 percent of those clothes were made in the United States.
Fast forward half a century.
Today, the average American household spends less than 3.5 percent of its budget on clothing and shoes – under $1,800. Yet, we buy more clothing than ever before: nearly 20 billion garments a year, close to 70 pieces of clothing per person, or more than one clothing purchase per week.
Oh, and guess how much of that is made in the U.S.: about 2 percent.
Browse through the timeline below to see how dramatically the cost and origin of our clothing has changed. And then continue reading to find out why.
Everyone likes a good deal.
And for that reason, most of us have flocked to clothing stores like H&M and Old Navy for the unbelievably cheap and expansive selection they offer.
T-shirts for five bucks; jeans and dresses for under $20. It’s almost like you can’t afford to not buy it.
Clothing is cheaper now than it’s ever been: today average Americans spend less than four percent of their total income on their wardrobes, about half what was spent 50 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s almost cheaper today to buy a whole new wardrobe than to pay to wash your old one (a bit of an exaggeration, yes, but really not all that far off).
But you know the saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Same thing goes with your $5 t-shirt – it comes with some steep hidden costs. There’s no possible way retailers like H&M could be making billions in profits selling clothing at such low prices without there being some catch.
So what are we, the consumers, not seeing?