Households across the country are still feeling the effects of the Great Recession, with unemployment falling very slowly, while foreclosures are still increasing, along with poverty rates and oil prices. However, one group of Americans is doing very well — corporate CEOs, whose pay is returning to pre-recession levels:
At a time most employees can barely remember their last substantial raise, median CEO pay jumped 27% in 2010 as the executives’ compensation started working its way back to prerecession levels, a USA TODAY analysis of data from GovernanceMetrics International found. Workers in private industry, meanwhile, saw their compensation grow just 2.1% in the 12 months ended December 2010, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Median CEO pay is 9 million dollars a year.
A separate report being released Friday tries to go beyond traditional measurements like the poverty line and minimum wage to show what people need to earn to achieve a basic standard of living.
The study, commissioned by Wider Opportunities for Women, a nonprofit group, builds on an analysis the group and some state and local partners have been conducting since 1995 on how much income it takes to meet basic needs without relying on public subsidies. The new study aims to set thresholds for economic stability rather than mere survival, and takes into account saving for retirement and emergencies.
“We wanted to recognize that there was a cumulative impact that would affect one’s lifelong economic security,” said Joan A. Kuriansky, executive director of Wider Opportunities, whose report is called “The Basic Economic Security Tables for the United States.” “And we’ve all seen how often we have emergencies that we are unprepared for,” she said, especially during the recession. Layoffs or other health crises “can definitely begin to draw us into poverty.”
According to the report, a single worker needs an income of $30,012 a year — or just above $14 an hour — to cover basic expenses and save for retirement and emergencies. That is close to three times the 2010 national poverty level of $10,830 for a single person, and nearly twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
A single worker with two young children needs an annual income of $57,756, or just over $27 an hour, to attain economic stability, and a family with two working parents and two young children needs to earn $67,920 a year, or about $16 an hour per worker.
That compares with the national poverty level of $22,050 for a family of four. The most recent data from the Census Bureau found that 14.3 percent of Americans were living below the poverty line in 2009.
Wider Opportunities and its consulting partners saw a need for an index that would indicate how much families need to earn if, for example, they want to save for their children’s college education or for a down payment on a home.
“It’s an index that asks how can a family have a little grasp at the middle class,” said Michael Sherraden, director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, who consulted on the project and helped develop projections for how much income families need to devote to savings. “If we’re interested in families being able to be stable and not have their lives disrupted and have a little protection and backup and be able to educate their children, then this is the way we have to think.”
The numbers will not come as a surprise to working families who are struggling. Tara, a medical biller who declined to give her last name, said that she earns $15 an hour, while her husband, who works in building maintenance, makes $11.50 an hour. The couple, who live in Jamaica, Queens, have three sons, aged 9, 8 and 6.
“We tried to cut back on a lot of things,” she said. But the couple has been unable to make ends meet on their wages, and visit the River Fund food pantry in Richmond Hill every Saturday. With no money for savings, “I’m hoping that I will hit the lotto soon,” she said.