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?
- Guest Column
Like it or not, the curriculum needed reform
When we first examined the new Common Core Regents exams this June, we felt a sense of relief, not the distress or feeling of doom that has been played up in the media. "Exciting" is the word that comes to mind to describe how we felt about an exam that attempts to more accurately measure the real-world skills our students practice in class.
Police must crack down on motorcycle noise
Motorcycle noise in New York state is out of control. Most conversations about this end with the comment, "How do they get away with it?"
SAFE Act won't help get the lead out
When legislation is passed in a hurry, there are bound to be unintended consequences. I'm sure the governor and legislators who passed the New York SAFE Act under cover of darkness had good intentions. They wanted to make New York a safer place. In one way, they clearly failed.
Sessions' betrayal should live in infamy
On June 13, the Senate passed a bill designed to remedy the long delays veterans endure at the Veterans Administration by giving it extra funds for more clinics and medical personnel.
Drilling's future is at stake in state's high court
Last week Jennifer Huntington's request to heat her barns with gas from her own property was heard at the Court of Appeals in Albany.
- Saturday, May 31, 2014
Universal pre-k? Let's work with what we've got
The more education the better right? This is true not just for graduate or Ph.D programs, but at the other end of the spectrum: universal pre-kindergarten.
- Saturday, May 17, 2014
The pipeline is just part of a larger problem
I am opposed to the Constitution Pipeline because if we are to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, we need to stop building yet more infrastructure for fossil fuels.
- Saturday, May 3, 2014
Do all you can to prevent falls for seniors
Falls are a common problem for older adults. Every year one in three adults age 65 and older falls, but less than half of the adults who fall talk to their health-care providers about their falls.
- Monday, April 28, 2014
From the Chief's Desk: Best part of this job is helping others
With this interview below of officer Jeffrey D. Galluser, Oneonta Police Chief Dennis Nayor begins a series of talks with members of the Oneonta Police Department. Gallusser is assigned to the patrol division.
- Saturday, April 12, 2014
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.
Not the 'most perfect village' for the mentally ill
Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. On April 5, in these pages, I read the sorry tale -- the Bassett Medical Center's 10-bed Inpatient Psychiatry Unit in Cooperstown is closing.
- Saturday, March 29, 2014
The reality of our economy vs. 'what if'
The reality of our regional, indeed national, economy is that it is not sustainable. One has only to look at various indicators of economic health to reach that conclusion.
Don't opt-in for high-stakes testing
If you are the parent of a child in grades 3-8, then you know that the focus of education has shifted to the upcoming state tests in English Language Arts and Math, which start April 1. But did you know that you have the right to refuse these tests on your child's behalf?
- Saturday, March 22, 2014
Constitution will pipe money into local schools
The Constitution Pipeline project will be good for New York state because it will increase critical energy supply infrastructure to bring inexpensive natural gas from Pennsylvania to power homes and businesses. It will also be good for our region of New York state because it will bring natural gas to power Amphenol Aerospace in Sidney, the largest private sector employer between Albany and Binghamton -- with more than 1,000 jobs.
- Saturday, March 15, 2014
Get ready for more tall tales on natural gas
It's comment season again for the Constitution Pipeline. If past is any indication, expect at large, rowdy crowd ranting about exploding pipelines that incinerate kids, ravaged forests, scattered wildlife, spoiled streams and the inevitable apocalypse caused by hydraulic fracturing.
- Saturday, March 1, 2014
State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
Recently, the Margaretville and Roxbury boards of education joined their colleagues across the region and throughout the state in adopting a resolution calling on the state legislature to end the so-called "gap elimination adjustment."
- Saturday, January 25, 2014
The state Board of Regents deserves a shakeup
Last Saturday, despite a blanketing snowstorm, more than a hundred people showed up, some from as far away as Binghamton and Utica, at Oneonta High School for a forum titled, "On the State of Education in New York: Reform and Resistance."
It's no wonder businesses avoid us
Otsego County's gas potential was the subject of a Foothills symposium last Friday. Four gas activists/analysts shared their opinions on geology, production, and industry practice, with a side trip into the usual Doomsday Scenario.
- Saturday, January 11, 2014
How to bridge a widening wealth gap
If the governmentâ€™s figures are correct, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing. Two questions logically follow: should that be a surprise; and what are we going to do about it?
- Saturday, December 21, 2013
Nimbys, shills and celebs: A morality play for our times
As international corporations continue to ship U.S. jobs overseas, privatize water, track internet shopping and buy elections -- and argue that this improves our lives -- it's worth looking at how big oil's push to frack the earth is playing out in Otego.
- Like it or not, the curriculum needed reform