Even Many White-Collar Jobs Won’t Pay The Rent

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"Even Many White-Collar Jobs Won’t Pay The Rent"

(Credit: AP)

In many major metropolitan areas, being an urban planner or a bank teller is not enough to secure a comfortable living, according to new data comparing earnings with housing costs.

It is clear that wages in the fast food industry are too low for workers to afford the high rent in major cities, but new data from the Center for Housing Policy demonstrates that even many stable white-collar jobs will not earn city dwellers enough to pay the rent.

The Paycheck to Paycheck Database compares average earnings in 76 different occupations with housing prices in 207 metropolitan areas around the country. Playing around with the data can reveal some staggering realities about living life in the big city. Here are some occupations and how they stack up in the three largest cities: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Of the three, Chicago has the cheapest housing costs, but that does not make circumstances any easier because it also has the lowest average earnings.

A child care worker makes around $30,000 a year, not even close to affording rent:

child care worker data

CREDIT: Center for Housing Policy

The same goes for being a home health aide:

home health aide data

CREDIT: Center for Housing Policy

Work in the home care field historically hasn’t paid well. Over 90 percent of domestic workers and 60 percent of home care workers in New York City earn less than $25,000 a year. One of the reasons that wages are so low is a lack of workers’ rights and protections. Home care workers are not protected by minimum wage and overtime laws as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

But these problems plague other fields as well. Being a bank teller only pays about half the amount of money needed to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles and New York.

bank teller data

CREDIT: Center for Housing Policy

Receptionists fare slightly better but still don’t make enough for rent.

receptionist data

CREDIT: Center for Housing Policy

Even being an urban planner, which in many cases requires a graduate degree, cannot guarantee enough income for housing.

urban planner data

CREDIT: Center for Housing Policy

The data assumes that workers spend less than 30 percent of their income on rent, which is a generally accepted standard.

The findings lead to two equally difficult options for urban families. Most people in these occupations spend over half their household income on housing and have to cut back on other expenses, such as transportation or healthcare. Or they end up moving far away from their workplace and compensate for lower-priced housing with high commuting costs.

High housing costs coupled with low household earnings also make raising children exceedingly costly in the city. New data from the Department of Agriculture found that parents with a child born in 2012 will spend $214,080 from the time the child is born to when he or she is 17. Costs for child care, education, health care, and clothing are increasing, and they are generally higher in urban areas.

Marina Fang is an intern for ThinkProgress.

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