The Poverty Machine, Part 2

Keep-working-poverty-cartoonWhen last we spoke, I broke down some numbers on what it takes to survive in today’s world.  In Dallas, Texas, assuming that you don’t mind a modest lifestyle, you have to earn at least $16.50 per hour and work a solid 40 hours every week in order for you life to not suck like the vacuum of space.

This is why so many people still live at home with Mum and Dad, and also why there are so many people relying on roommates, and also also why so many couples have no choice but to be double-income, especially if they have children.

Those dang kids… this is why we can’t have can’t afford nice things.

Let’s work those numbers again, just for fun.  We’re going to assume a few things about this scenario, though, since it’s not just you:  there are two children who share a room, one is in elementary school and the other is in daycare but potty-trained.  Ready, set, go!

Two bedroom apartments outside of the demilitarized zone will run starting about $850.  Utilities will be more because kids use resources, so figure $350 for electric, water, and natural gas.  The car insurance is still $75, but now you have to pay more for medical because you have children, and if you get a decent employer contribution to that, it’ll be about $450 a month for medical insurance.  You have to drop kids off at school and daycare, which is a little more in gas, so bump it up to $180 per month, and you have to feed all of you, so your grocery bill is probably close to $800 for the not-fancy-stuff.  You have to have internet so that little Sally can do homework, so add another $75 a month for really, really slow internet, and little Johnny’s daycare is going to run – are you sitting down? – $800 a month.  That’s $200 a week for the average daycare where you shouldn’t have to worry about them learning to count with dirty needles from the playground.

Oh, wait, did you want that emergency padding?  And what about cell phone bills? That wasn’t in the previous calculation because they aren’t that big of an impact if you go no-contract, but with kids, you have to have them.  Assume two lines at least for $150 a month, and add that $150 for emergency padding.

And now, to drop the beat:  $3880 after taxes.  That means that your pre-tax money should be around $4578.40, or about $28.50 per hour if you’re guaranteed a solid 40 hours a week (not salaried).  That means that your household income needs to be about $60K a year if you have a kid in daycare.  (You can drop that to $50K when little Johnny hits kindergarten.)

If you live with your co-parent (by whatever role), you guys are almost lucky.  You can share the responsibility of bringing in that much money, except that whoever gets to stay home with the kids when they’re sick has a significantly higher probability of being out of work, especially during flu season.  And that means, your double-income has now become only one income, and if you’re really, really lucky, it’ll be the higher waged job.

Let me put those numbers back into perspective for the minimum wage earners:  You have to have FOUR full-time (40 hours per week guaranteed) jobs to pay for two kids.  Sure, Mum and Dad could each take two jobs, but then who’s actually going to raise the children?  16-hour days (not counting traveling from one job to another) means that no one is available and conscious at home.

What about work-from-home jobs?  They still require you to work.  That means that you can’t help little Sally with her homework for as long as she needs it, and you can’t drop your assignments to go clean the poop out of little Johnny’s LEGOs when he decided he wanted to be a kitty and pretended that they were a litter box.

The bottom line is that the “American Dream” of a single-income family being able to afford anything above scraping by is far more implausible than ever before.

“But, hey, what about college?  College educations make everything better!”

You know what?  Maybe, except not really.  But I’ll talk about that in the next installment.

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Click here to read Part 1.

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