Wealth and Poverty

RECENT POSTS

What Are Your Odds of Winning the Lottery?

By Joe Golling

If you gamble on faith — not on odds — you might want to stop reading this now. Because the chances of winning just about any big stakes lottery game — like Mega Millions  — is just north of impossible. Let’s take Powerball, for instance. Odds of winning the jackpot: about 1 in 175 million. By comparison, your odds of getting hit by lightening — a presumably less favorable outcome — are significantly higher. So, be sure to take shelter during thunderstorms, and, if you play the lottery: you might not want to quit your day job just yet. But hey, you never know, right? People win all the time. In this animation and accompanying infographic, animator Joe Golling explains how to calculate the mathematical possibilities of buying the winning ticket.

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In One-Day Strike, Fast-Food Workers Demand A Living Wage

Includes video
wage_hike_pic

Workers and advocates demonstrate outside of a McDonald’s in Oakland last summer. (Flickr/Steve Rhodes)

Fast-food workers at restaurants in more than 100 cities across the country, including Oakland and other East Bay cities, are walking off the the job today in a push for a major wage hike.

Backed by organized labor, the one-day actions are part of a year-old campaign to highlight the difficulties low-wage workers face in paying for basic living costs.

Following on the heels of similar protests last summer, demonstrators are demanding a wage of $15 an hour, a significant — though unlikely — raise from the current average fast-food industry wage of less than $9 an hour. Continue reading

Thanksgiving on Food Stamps, by the Numbers

Courtesy of Flickr/Loren Javier

Courtesy of Flickr/Loren Javier

For the record 47 million people who rely on food stamps — about 1 in 7 Americans —  paying the cost of a full Thanksgiving meal tomorrow may be a bit tougher than it was last year.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

On Nov. 1, monthly benefits for most families on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were reduced by about 5 percent. That amounts to roughly $36 in cuts per month for a family of four — from $668 to $632 — based on maximum benefit levels, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency overseeing the program. The reductions stem from Congress’ refusal to renew about $5 billion in additional benefits that were provided as part of the 2009 stimulus bill. 

So how does that translate in Thanksgiving dollars?

In its annual survey, the Farm Bureau Federation — a conservative group — calculated the average cost (nationwide) of all the standard fixings in a Thanksgiving meal for 10 people at about $49 – or $4.90 per person. Even assuming the cheapest ingredients and small portion sizes, it’s a very conservative and somewhat dubious estimate and obviously varies significantly by region. But for the sake of argument, let’s use it. (See the last Lowdown post for the breakdown of costs.)  

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Poverty Line Problems: The History of an Outdated Measurement (Infographic)

Includes Cartoon Infographic

Poverty_Line_Problems_Slice6Following 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

A Public Transit Guide to Income Inequality in the Bay Area

Includes interactive maps/charts

Muni_linesAs Bay Area commuters once again brace for the possibility of a prolonged BART strike and look to alternative transportation means, it seems apropos to feature this innovative multimedia piece: a collection of some of the region’s major public transit lines and the dramatic income disparities that exist among the communities living along those routes. Continue reading

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

How Much Does It Really Cost to Raise A Kid?

Includes infographic, interactive chart and video

o-INFOGRAPHIC-COST-OF-RAISING-CHILD-900

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

In order to pay for basic living expenses, a single California resident with no children would need to make, on average, roughly $11.20/hour.

That’s according to the Living Wage Calculator created by Amy K. Glasmeier, a professor of urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Below are estimates of how much each adult in various-sized households needs to make in order to pay for basic monthly living expenses. Keep in mind that these figures are estimated statewide averages. The actual cost of things in California, of course, varies significantly, by region. Whereas rent in Stockton may be lower than what’s shown here, San Francisco’s average rent is, well, fuggedaboutit!

All estimates below are based on Glasmeier’s calculator, which uses government data to estimate average living wage expenses for every state and county in the country.

As Glasmeier notes, consider results a minimum cost threshold, and likely an underestimate for metropolitan areas and other higher cost areas. Additionally, you many notice that households with two adults and children are listed as having lower costs than households with one adult and children. The discrepancy is due to child care costs: two adult households — with one sole earner — assume one adult stays home with the children.

(Additional methodology explained below charts.)

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.