How come people don't want to live here?
Over the past decade, my county, Delaware, lost one percent of its population, according to the 2010 Census. Chenango County lost two percent, while Otsego County was up slightly, by one percent. The net exodus from upstate New York has people worrying about "brain drain" and a loss of representation in Albany and Washington.
So, what's the problem? Why are people moving out of _ and not moving into _ our area?
Of course the short answer is, "No jobs!"
No kidding. In Delaware County, the official unemployment rate (which doesn't take into account involuntarily part-time workers or people who have stopped looking) is 9.6 percent. In Otsego County, it's 9.1 percent.
Then again, a lot of people around here have too many jobs. One guy we know works at a local supermarket part-time _ and then runs off to Walmart for Job No. 2. Then there's the nice woman at the convenience store who _ hello! _ you see the next day working another convenience store counter down the road. She has strung together three jobs, all paying close to minimum wage, none with any benefits to speak of. And yet, she's working up to 60 hours a week.
The federal minimum wage is now $7.25 an hour _ just $290 a week. Back in 1968, the minimum wage stood at $8.54, when calculated in today's dollars. Even then, though, it was hard to live on.
Fortunately, most people in our area do make more than the minimum wage. The average weekly wage in Delaware County is $668, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (and $10 more in Otsego County). That's almost $35,000 per year _ more than $16 an hour.
But of course, that's just an average. Some workers do much better: In Delaware County, construction workers average $840 a week. People in education earn an average of $709. But if you're in "arts, entertainment and recreation," you make an average of just $315 a week. And if you're in hotel or food services in Delaware County _ and many people are _ you get just $236 a week. These people are making an average of $12,272 a year _ and to top it off, they often don't get benefits.
If that's the kind of job on offer, no wonder people are moving away. How can you live on $12,000 a year?
According to a new report commissioned by Wider Opportunities for Women, you can't. This nonprofit organization regularly commissions a respected study called BEST (Basic Economic Security Tables), which calculates the bare minimum an individual or family needs to budget for housing, food, heat _ the basics.
The BEST study found that a single worker needs, on average, at least $30,012 a year_ that's $577 a week _ to make it. But if you're a single parent supporting one young child, you need at least $46,368 ($891 per week).
So there you go, workers of Delaware and Otsego counties: You can make it! Just don't have kids.
Looking at BEST's budget makes you think about the cost of living in a cold, rural place. We can probably make the BEST budget's rent: $688 per month. The average rent in Delaware County is $518. But I know of no one who has whittled his utilities down to the BEST budget's $149 a month. We'd freeze!
And transportation in our area is a killer. Do you know of anyone who spends less than $495 per month on transportation, if you include the cost of buying, repairing and insuring the car, not to mention depreciation?
But it's when you have kids that things get really hard. The BEST study says that the "high cost of quality child care is the greatest
threat to many families' security, and in many places across the country the cost of childcare threatens a second parent's ability to work and increase family income."
The BEST budget has a family with one pre-schooler and one school-aged child paying $1,080 per month for child care.
See Jobs on Page D2
If you're a restaurant worker making $12,000 a year, that doesn't exactly add up. It could be a wash _ except that to get to your job, you're spending a fortune on gas.
Health insurance is of course another crazy wildcard. BEST calculates that if the employer provides benefits, a family of four pays at least $443 a month for health care. If the employer doesn't provide it, they pay $667. That's $8,000 a year, just for health care. Even if you're making the Delaware County average of about $30,000 a year, that's a huge bite.
Clearly, it doesn't have to be this way, since Americans spend twice as much on health care as people in other industrialized countries, and get worse care. (In most other developed countries, the government insures everyone, which turns out to be more cost-efficient _ and healthy.) In short, in our area expenses are high, but pay is low.
To keep people here, and attract new people, of course we want jobs, jobs, jobs.
But what we really need are good ones.
Laura McClure is a freelance editor and writer. She lives in Bovina Center.
How come people don't want to live here?
- Big Chuck D'Imperio
Let's put a check on 'check engine' light
The absolute worst thing that can befall a driver happened to me on the way to work this morning. The one singular auto event that can send shivers of fear and panic up the spine of even the most seasoned road warrior.Continued ...
- Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks
- 1965 Oscars? Thanks for the memories
- There was just no telling about snow days
- And the music goes round and round
- Let's put a check on 'check engine' light
- Cary Brunswick
Government lost trust by spying on us
Flaws in that little padlock on people's supposedly secure Internet sites have sent users in recent days scrambling to change passwords and question whether they should keep providing sensitive information in their online interactions.Continued ...
- History hurts our credibility on Crimea
- Hardships, repression, don't get Cubans down
- It's time for warmer relations with Cuba
- Unconventional events changed my outlook
- Government lost trust by spying on us
- Chuck Pinkey
- Guest Column
The anti-pipeline crowd won't win
At the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's hearing in Oneonta on April 1, the antis continued their obstruction of anything fossil-fuel related.Continued ...
- Not the 'most perfect village' for the mentally ill
- The reality of our economy vs. 'what if'
- Don't opt-in for high-stakes testing
- Constitution will pipe money into local schools
- The anti-pipeline crowd won't win
- Lisa Miller
A view from above
Fire towers in the Catskill Mountains have always been destination points, built to capture some of the region’s best views. These sentinel stations served an important role for the earliest possible sightings of forest fires in the remote mountain ranges. But the fire towers and those who manned them fulfilled a multitude of other roles as well.Continued ...
- Being a parent is a constant learning process
- Healthy doesn't have to mean expensive
- A family era ends with close of Potter series
- Independent stores make up for loss of Borders
- A view from above
- Mark Simonson
Student housing stirred unrest in 1970s
Oneonta has certainly been no stranger to controversial college student housing projects in recent years. The proposed dormitory just south of the State University College at Oneonta campus on Clinton Street in 2011, and the more recent Hillside Commons project, which is under construction at the top of Blodgett Drive, both ruffled feathers.Continued ...
- Oneonta reveled in spring 'Dress Up Week' in 1919
- Proposed change to Delaware County Community College rejected in 1959
- Area heartily welcomed home troops from WWI
- Local residents coped with lines for gasoline in 1974
- Student housing stirred unrest in 1970s
- Rick Brockway
Frog legs always a neat treat
We ate at a local restaurant a couple of weeks ago and had frog legs. They're one of my favorites and I hadn't had them for several years, so I was excited.
- You never know what you're going to see on the slopes
- Chestnuts are making a comeback
- Fishing is all about being in the right place at the right time
- It's funny how animals can adapt to almost any wild situation
- Frog legs always a neat treat
- Sam Pollak
Mr. Adelson disturbs my 'ghetto mentality'
This Sheldon Adelson guy makes me very nervous.Continued ...
- A minority group that's getting out of hand
- Religion should be a comfort, not a weapon
- The world must think we're nuts
- Mistakes easy to take ... if they're not yours
- Mr. Adelson disturbs my 'ghetto mentality'
- William Masters
Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues
As the time to vote draws near, we need to remember how money can run politics more than we can. Raising funds is a prominent (if not the dominant) task of getting elected. Raising issues is also crucial, but those efforts are subject to distortion and fear-mongering.
Republicans feelentitled to allthey can garner
An entitlement is a legal benefit available from the government to individuals who are within a defined category of recipients, such as needing insurance for unemployment or health services.
Romney focuses on self; Obama emphasizes unity
Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama for saying a person's success is rooted in his community, and is not all his alone. Romney belittles this with his belief in individual initiative. He is better at the put-down than the push-up.
Romney shows little regard for common man
The Republicans in Congress have voted over and over, 33 times, redundantly and uselessly, to rescind what they call Obamacare.
Scouts' gay ban creates problem where none exists
The Boy Scouts of America's "emphatic reaffirmation" of its vow to exclude any and all homosexuals from its hallowed ranks is ill-considered and pathetic, especially in view of its having reviewed the matter for two years.
- Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues