The holidays bite me in the butt every year when it comes to my wallet. I try to plan for the added expenses of gifts and school parties and Christmas cards – but every year I have sticker shock when I pay my credit card bills at the end of the month.
The difference between me and thousands of North Carolinians is ultimately, I can pay those bills. Sometimes it takes me a month or two, but eventually they get paid, and my family still has plenty of food, clothing and a warm house in the meantime. Others don’t have that luxury. Even though they work full time, many with college degrees, their income doesn’t match what they need to live every month.
According to the Center for American Progress, 16-percent of North Carolinians have incomes below the poverty line, and 23-percent of children live in poverty.
This month writers and guest writers of Women AdvaNCe will be focusing on the topic of income equity. In order to be invested in our fellow citizens who find themselves in a tough spot at the end of every month, we need to understand what they’re confronting. It is so easy to assume that if WE can make it, everyone can – and I can tell you that’s not the case.
It’s important to note that poverty has a disproportionate impact on women in the Tar Heel State. Almost 18-percent of women have incomes below the poverty line, compared with 13-percent of their male counterparts. Additionally, minority communities bear the brunt of our economic system. Twenty-five percent of African Americans and Native Americans fall in the poverty category and 30-percent of Latinos.
Why is it that women and minorities have a tougher time? It’s not because we don’t desire to do better. Most of us want to work, but many jobs don’t pay a living wage, and whether we want to admit it or not, prejudices still exist.
Here’s another way to look at it. According to Pew Research, the richest 20-percent of US families own 89-percent of all the wealth, and the highest earning families earn 62-percent of all income. While many people who earn high incomes have gone to years of school and spent their own time pinching pennies to make it work, there was a light at the end of their tunnel. They made it. Not everyone can, and it starts with jobs that pay a living wage.
I encourage you to check out this cool living wage calculator for some perspective. In Wake County, a “living wage” (the hourly rate needed for someone to support themselves and their family) is $11.09 for an individual, and $27.21 for an adult supporting two children. Then ask yourself how many jobs in your community really pay that? And what happens to the people who are working at Wal Mart or Harris Teeter to support their family? The numbers don’t add up and what the system equals is a mass of people who will never get ahead and that inability will have a generational impact on their family if we don’t do something about it.
So join us this month in this discussion. Consider these families as you plan your giving this holiday season. My family and I always “adopt” a child in need for Christmas, and I can tell you my girls get more excited about shopping for that child than some of their family members. Giving is a gift and a privilege and I encourage you to engage in the season.