Worcester, one of the largest cities in New England, is a hotbed of people and activity. However, like many cities, poverty is a prevalent and often underreported problem. In Worcester, nearly 25% or 1 in 4 people, live in poverty. So, when we examine poverty more closely in Worcester, it raises one important question. What is a ‘living wage’ in Worcester?
According to a living wage study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the required annual income for a Worcester resident before taxes is $26,020.80 (approximately $12.51 per hour). That figure includes annual expenses for food, medical, housing, transportation, etc.
The minimum wage in Worcester is $12 an hour. Assuming an individual is a full-time employee and has only one job, they would earn $24,960 annually which is $1060.80 less than the required annual income. This would make financial stability very difficult for the average person. One emergency or a sudden change in employment could plunge someone into poverty.
On the other end of the scale, let’s examine how a living wage applies to a family of 4 that includes two parents (one working) and two children.
According to the same MIT study, a living wage for this size family is $25.42 per hour or $52,873.60 annually. Since the minimum wage in Massachusetts is $12 per hour, this means that they would earn $13.42 less per hour than the living wage estimated by MIT. Although Federal and State Government guidelines would classify this family above the poverty line, the clear reality is that they would be struggling to meet the necessities – food, shelter, and clothing. In other words, they would be poor.
A living wage means that you should be able to enjoy a modest lifestyle that covers the bare necessities. Sadly, for many, it is necessary to work two jobs to afford food, clothing, and shelter. There would be no money left over for savings, entertainment, vacations, etc. All the things many of us take for granted every day.
The MIT study goes on to classify typical annual salaries in Worcester in 22 occupational areas. The salary of these areas ranges from $23,479 to $99,128. The yearly wages associated with 13 of these 22 occupational areas are well below the required annual income before taxes for the family of 4 we discussed previously. For example, the Worcester economy is driven by the healthcare sector. Healthcare Support, one of the 22 occupational areas covered in the study, lists an average annual salary of $32,313 – well below the $52,873.60 we discussed previously for a family of 4.
It is clear that a living wage is out of reach for many residents in Worcester.