Economics

The current events of commerce

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Map: San Francisco’s Affordable Rent Gap Is Enough to Make You Sick … Literally

Includes interactive map
housing map

San Francisco Department of Public Health

Looking for an apartment to rent in San Francisco?

Brace yourself.

Last year, the City by the Bay earned the dubious distinction of having America’s most expensive rental market, beating out longtime heavyweight New York. Due in part to the surge in the region’s tech-fueled jobs market (some “friend” indeed, Zuckerberg!) and the city’s longstanding shortage of affordable housing units, the spike has led to jaw-dropping rents, with the median monthly rate of a mere studio at more than $2,200 a month, according to apartmentlist.com. Continue reading

For Minimum Wage Earners in California, the Promise of a Pay Raise

Includes interactive charts
Wikimedia

Wikimedia

California’s lowest-paid workers received some much welcomed news this week when state lawmakers approved a hotly contested bill to gradually bump up the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

The legislation, which Governor Jerry Brown has already promised to sign, will hike the state’s minimum wage to $9 by next July and $10 by January 2016, an increase of 25 percent. It’s the first statewide increase in six years, and will give California the highest minimum wage in the nation. Currently, Washington State leads the way, with a minimum wage of $9.19 an hour. California also trails Vermont and Oregon. Continue reading

The 10 Highest and Lowest Paid Jobs in America

Includes interactive charts
anesthiologis

Wikimedia Commons

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. Continue reading

Fast-Food Workers Fight for A Living Wage

Includes infographic and video

Steve Rhodes/Flickr

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. Continue reading

Have the March on Washington’s Demands Been Met?

Includes interactive charts
1963August 28, 1963
2013August 28, 2013

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

Labor Day’s Violent Roots: The Hard Won Fight for Your Three-Day Weekend

Labor Day, workers rights


Labor Day wasn’t always about hot dogs and corn hole.

In fact, the holiday stemmed from a series of violent actions against workers in the late 19th century who were protesting miserable working conditions in an era where laborers were afforded few rights or protections. The hard fought struggles, which ultimately resulted in a marked improvement in labor conditions in many U.S. industries and helped spur an era of strong labor unions and expanded workers rights, is an essential part of American history but far too commonly overlooked.

These short videos provide a good overview on the history of Labor Day. Additionally, these articles from PBS and Scientific American give good background information, as does this Lowdown post on May Day and its relation to Labor Day.

How Much Does It Really Cost to Raise A Kid?

Includes infographic, interactive chart and video

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It turns out that your little bundle of joy is going to cost you a big bundle of cash.

That’s according to a recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture report calculating the average cost of raising a child born in 2012. Accounting for food, shelter, schooling and other basic necessities, the report estimates that from birth to age 18, a kid will rack up a total bill of about $241,080, or just shy of $13,400 per year. When adjusted for inflation, that total translates to more like $302,000, or about $16,800 per year. And no, that does not include college. Continue reading

How Much Does it Really Cost to Live in California?

Includes interactive infographic

California’s statewide minimum wage is $8/hour. But in order to pay for basic living expenses, a single California resident with no children actually needs to make more like $11.20/hour. This is an estimate of what’s called a living wage.

Below are estimates of how much each adult in various-sized households needs to make in order to pay for basic monthly living expenses (with amounts based on statewide averages). These figures, and living wage calculations in general, are averages. The actual cost of things in California, of course, varies significantly, by region. Whereas rent in, say Stockton, might be lower than the average shown here, San Francisco’s average rent is, well, fuggedaboutit!

All estimates below are taken from a Living Wage Calculator created by Amy K. Glasmeier, a professor of urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Using the most updated government data, the calculator estimates average living wage expenses for every state and every county in the country (methodology explained beneath the chart).

Methodology (as explained by MIT’s Glasmeier):

“The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location … The tool is designed to provide a minimum estimate of the cost of living for low wage families. The estimates do not reflect a middle class standard of living. The realism of the estimates depend on the type of community under study. Metropolitan counties are typically locations of high cost. In such cases, the calculator is likely to underestimate costs such as housing and child care. Consider the results a minimum cost threshold that serves as a benchmark, but only that. Users can substitute local data when available to generate more nuanced estimates. Adjustments to account for local conditions will provide greater realism and potentially increase the accuracy of the tool. As developed, the tool is meant to provide one perspective on the cost of living in America.”

Why America Stopped Making Its Own Clothes

Includes data visualization and video

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.

Continue reading

Who Made Your T-Shirt? The Hidden Cost of Cheap Fashion

Includes video/audio clips and infographics

(Photo by Art Cummings/Flickr)

 

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?

Continue reading