Thursday, November 12, 2020

44% of US workers in low-paid jobs with median hourly pay of $10

Pre-Covid, 44% of private-sector US workers (122m excluding government, agriculture and self-employed) were in low-paid jobs with a median hourly pay of just over $10. Meanwhile, this September a measure of the quality of life showed that the United States, Brazil and Hungary were the only countries in the Social Progress Index where people are worse off than when the index began in 2011.

“The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told The New York Times. “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

The United States has a ranking of 28 of 163 countries and it follows Cyprus and Greece. The top 4 countries based on 50 dimensions have female leaders and Ireland has the 12th ranking.

Low pay America

Last November the Brookings Institution issued a report on low-pay covering almost 400 metropolitan areas. Smaller cities in the South and West tend to have the highest share, where the low-wage rate is over 60% but it's found in all regions.

"Places with some of the highest wages and most productive economies are home to large numbers of low-wage workers: nearly one million in the Washington DC, region, 700,000 each in Boston and San Francisco, and 560,000 in Seattle," the authors wrote.

There was an adjustment for cost of living in regions and the national threshold represents two-thirds the national median hourly wages for men working full-time year-round. The median is the mid-point where 50% are above and 50% below.

Low-wage workers comprise a substantial share of the workforce and they earn median hourly wages of $10.22 and median annual earnings of $17,950.

The report says "More than 53m people, or 44% of all workers ages 18 to 64 in the United States, earn low hourly wages. More than half (56%) are in their prime working years of 25-50, and this age group is also the most likely to be raising children (43%). They are concentrated in a relatively small number of occupations, and many face economic hardship and difficult roads to higher-paying jobs. Slightly more than half are the sole earners in their families or make major contributions to family income. Nearly one-third live below 150% of the federal poverty line (about $36,000 for a family of four), and almost half have a high school diploma or less. Women and Black workers, two groups for whom there is ample evidence of labour market discrimination, are overrepresented among low-wage workers."

This year in a report the Economic Policy Institute noted "Without the wage growth spurred by exceptionally low unemployment in the late 1990s and the last five years, wages for most workers would be lower today (in real terms) than they were 40 years ago.

Even with recent wage growth, the median wage — the wage at the centre of the wage distribution—is only $19.33 an hour, which translates into about $40,000 for a full-time, full-year worker.

Wage inequality: From 2000 to 2019, wage growth was strongest for the highest-wage workers, continuing the trend in rising wage inequality since 1979. Since 2007, the labour market peak before the Great Recession, the strongest wage growth has continued to be within the top 10% of the wage distribution."

The federal minimum wage has been unchanged at $7.25 an hour since 2009. However, over that period, several states and cities have set their own minimum wages or raised existing ones. As a result, the average effective US minimum wage is almost $12 an hour.

The states that have approved $15 an hour minimum wage are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

The top 10% in the US own almost 80% of the wealth — Note: The OECD is an economics think tank for mainly rich countries. The latest available year is 2016 for Canada and the United States, 2015 for Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway, 2013 for Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Portugal, 2012 for Canada and Spain, and 2014 for all other countries. Data for the United Kingdom are limited to Great Britain. The OECD average excludes Colombia, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Israel, Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, as comparable data are not available

The social fraying of America

Social expenditure as defined by the OECD in 2018 was 31% of GDP in France, 25% in Germany, 26% in Sweden and 19% in the US.

The United States spent 18% of GDP on healthcare in 2018 compared with about 11% in Western Europe: Brookings: — "Sixty years ago, healthcare was 5% of the US 2018, it was more than three times that"; Commonwealth Fund: — "Compared to peer nations, the US has among the highest number of hospitalizations from preventable causes and the highest rate of avoidable deaths.

The US ranks first in the Social Progress Index 2020 for quality of universities, but at a 91 ranking for access to quality basic education. The US leads the world in medical technology, but it dips to 97 in access to quality healthcare.

The SPI suggests that Americans health statistics rank with Chile, Jordan and Albania, while children in the United States get an education comparable with Uzbekistan and Mongolia. The majority of countries have lower homicide rates, and most rich countries have lower traffic fatality rates, better sanitation and internet access.

These are other metrics I have compiled:

1) About half of the US adult population will have obesity and about a quarter will have severe obesity by 2030, according to a Dec 2019 study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

The study’s researchers estimate that, currently, 40% of American adults have obesity and 18% have severe obesity. The level in the EU27 is 15% — A body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher, falls within the obese range;

2) The US has a population of 330m and the EU27 has 448m: Covid-19 deaths in the US are at 240,000 and 197,000 in the EU;

3) Half the civilian gun deaths in the world are in 6 countries in the Americas led by Brazil and the US - Nixon's War on Drugs which was designed to target US blacks, has resulted in millions of deaths in South America Epic failure of War on Drugs;

4) Drug overdose deaths in the US in 2019 were at a record 72,000. EU27 deaths in 2018 were at 5,000 (the UK accounted for 40% of the cases in the EU28). Comparing rates, the EU had a death rate of 11 per million and the US had a rate of 207.

In contrast with the treatment of blacks since the 1970s who used illegal drugs (mainly cannabis), the opioid crisis has been regarded as a health issue as it also affects whites;

5) The US is an outlier in the rich world with average life expectancy falling in recent years.

The Social Progress Index: US States ranking of the quality of life in all 50 states in 2018.

California has the world’s fifth-largest economy, ahead of India and behind Germany, as well as a reputation as a progressive leader, however, it ranked only 33rd in social progress, worse than both its economic peers and several states with far fewer resources. It was the second-lowest ranked state on the index’s Basic Human Needs dimension, ahead of only Louisiana.

  1. Massachusetts (SPI score: 64.82)
  2. Minnesota (SPI score: 62.30)
  3. Vermont (SPI score: 61.90)
  4. New Hampshire (SPI score: 61.76)
  5. Connecticut (SPI score: 61.09)
  6. Wisconsin (SPI score: 57.88)
  7. Washington (SPI score: 57.76)
  8. Maine (SPI score: 57.54)
  9. Iowa (SPI score: 57.21)
  10. Rhode Island (SPI score: 56.67)
  11. Colorado (SPI score: 56.01)
  12. New York (SPI score: 54.76)
  13. Maryland (SPI score: 54.47)
  14. New Jersey (SPI score: 54.26)
  15. Virginia (SPI score: 54.22)
  16. Oregon (SPI score: 53.36)
  17. North Dakota (SPI score: 53.14)
  18. Nebraska (SPI score: 52.57)
  19. Illinois (SPI score: 52.33)
  20. South Dakota (SPI score: 51.81)
  21. Delaware (SPI score: 51.55)
  22. Pennsylvania (SPI score: 51.08)
  23. Michigan (SPI score: 50.76)
  24. Utah (SPI score: 50.58)
  25. Hawaii (SPI score: 49.82)
  26. Ohio (SPI score: 48.64)
  27. Kansas (SPI score: 48.26)
  28. Idaho (SPI score: 47.77)
  29. Wyoming (SPI score: 46.90)
  30. North Carolina (SPI score: 46.80)
  31. Montana (SPI score: 46.64)
  32. Florida (SPI score: 45.93)
  33. California (SPI score: 45.53)
  34. Arizona (SPI score: 45.43)
  35. Alaska(SPI score: 43.77)
  36. Missouri (SPI score: 43.70)
  37. Indiana (SPI score: 43.54)
  38. Georgia (SPI score: 43.25)
  39. South Carolina (SPI score: 41.99)
  40. Tennessee (SPI score: 41.24)
  41. Nevada (SPI score: 40.29)
  42. Texas (SPI score: 40.27)
  43. Kentucky (SPI score: 38.60)
  44. New Mexico (SPI score: 37.16)
  45. Alabama (SPI score: 33.60)
  46. Oklahoma (SPI score: 32.80)
  47. Arkansas (SPI score: 32.10)
  48. Louisiana (SPI score: 30.07)
  49. West Virginia (SPI score: 29.50)
  50. Mississippi (SPI score: 27.18)


Socialism for the rich: America's $532bn bailout of big companies — Fortune magazine noted in August 2019 that more than half of all share buybacks were funded by debt.

Bertelsmann Stiftung's 2019 Social Justice Index — USA at 36 of 41 countries; behind Greece and just ahead of Chile; Bulgaria; Romania; Turkey and Mexico

Slavery and myth of American exceptionalism — In October 1921, President Warren Harding, a Republican,  became the first president to visit the Deep South since the Civil War. He spoke to whites and blacks in a park in Birmingham, Alabama. A fence separated the races.

“I can say to you people of the South, both white and black, that the time has passed when you are entitled to assume that the problem of races is peculiarly and particularly your problem,” Harding told the audience. “It is the problem of democracy everywhere, if we mean the things we say about democracy as the ideal political state.”

“Whether you like it or not, our democracy is a lie unless you stand for that equality,” he added.

Racism remains a potent issue for Americans 100 years later.