Workers and their families are hurting. In October, People’s Action Institute released living wage figures for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and at the national level, finding that the cost of living in every state is well above the minimum wage. Unfortunately, while there has been solid job growth since the Great Recession, much of that growth has been through low-wage jobs, leaving too few jobs that pay enough for workers to make ends meet.
And, while this impacts people of all races, genders, and sexual orientations, individual, institutional, and structural discrimination continue to make it more difficult for women, people of color, and the LGBTQI community to access what high-wage jobs are available.
At the same time, these communities are the hardest hit by dilapidated local and national infrastructure that makes water toxic, roads impassible, and access to digital information unreliable. While a national infrastructure spending plan could be the key to beginning to solve both problems, it could just as easily exacerbate both if done poorly.
Nationally, this report finds that there are seven job seekers for every job opening that pays the national single adult living wage of $17.28 per hour. This leaves six out of seven job seekers unable to secure employment that allows a single adult to make ends meet, much less support a family.
This lack of good paying jobs reinforces income inequality that continues to play a major role in perpetuating existing wealth gaps for women, people of color, and the LGBTQI community. While occupations that traditionally employ high rates of women and people of color include occupations with the most openings, those jobs are more likely to be low-wage. This contributes to existing wealth gaps by diminishing the ability of women and people of color to save and build up wealth.
A strong public infrastructure plan can address racial, gender, and LGBTQI wealth gaps while providing a large number of good paying jobs through a number of mechanisms, such as targeted hiring from struggling communities – including women, people of color, and the LGBTQI community – and strong wage floor requirements. Equally as important are the types of infrastructure projects that are prioritized. Ensuring access to clean water for marginalized communities, for example, must come first while any plan that would privatize public assets must be rejected.