Wage Insufficiency

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Income can be evaluated based on hourly wages.  Some workers are in poverty despite full-time work, as noted in the Employment section, indicating that poverty can be caused by low hourly wages.  It is important to investigate how many workers’ hourly wages are high enough to support their families.  It may not be reasonable to assume that workers are able to work more than full time.  Even when this is possible, there are negative consequences associated with overtime that could be considered an unreasonable burden, such as workplace injury, illness, increased mortality, and declines in general health (1).  Forsyth Futures considers a worker’s hourly wages to be sufficient if that worker’s hourly wages are high enough to meet his or her needs with full-time work, regardless of how many hours are actually worked.  When this is not the case, hourly wages are considered insufficient. For further detail on this measure, click here.

Important Links

Data 101
Data Glossary
Methodology
About this Study
Executive Summary
Key Findings

Core Concepts

This section illustrates that a large portion of workers earn insufficient hourly wages.
  • About 40% of workers in Forsyth County could not cover their expenses with full-time work at their current hourly rate. All peer communities have a similar rate. 
  • Workers are more likely to have insufficient hourly wages when they are young or a racial minority.

Hourly-Wage Insufficiency

Forsyth Futures considers a worker’s hourly wages to be sufficient if that worker’s hourly wages are high enough to meet his or her needs with full-time work, regardless of how many hours are actually worked.  When this is not the case, hourly wages are considered insufficient. 
Figure 1: Hourly Wage Insufficiency by Geography, 2014
Figure 1 shows that about 40% of workers in Forsyth County could not cover their expenses with full-time work at their current hourly rate.  There is no significant difference in hourly wage insufficiency rates between Forsyth County and any of its peer communities.
There was no data available for Roanoke (munc.); it was omitted from this visualization.
Figure 2: Hourly Wage Insufficiency by Age in Forsyth County, 2014
Figure 2 shows that as workers age, they are progressively less likely to earn an insufficient wage.
  • Three-quarters of workers age 18 to 24 could not cover their expenses with full-time work at their current hourly rate.
  • Workers age 25 to 44 are about 25% less likely to have insufficient wages than workers aged 18 to 24.
  • Workers age 45 to 64 are about 40% less likely to have insufficient wages than workers aged 18 to 24.

The particularly high hourly wage insufficiency for residents between 18 and 24 may be, in part, because this age group is more likely to be in single-person families than other age groups. Hourly wage insufficiency assumes that single-person families live in their own 1-bedroom apartment, and there may be some workers with insufficient wages, particularly between 18 and 24 years old, with a roommate who would have sufficient hourly wages if their shared housing expenses were taken into account.
Figure 3: Hourly Wage Insufficiency by Race/Ethnicity in Forsyth County, 2014
Figure 3 illustrates that there are large racial disparities in hourly wage insufficiency rates.
  • Hourly wage insufficiency is lowest among White, non-Hispanic workers.
  • There is not a significant difference in the hourly wage insufficiency rates of African American and Hispanic/Latino workers.

Christopher Webb, MPP
Christopher is a Data and Research Analyst with Forsyth Futures.  He performs statistical analysis and programming to support work on community issues in Forsyth County. 
He holds a Master's in Public Policy from American University, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Business.
If you have questions or comments about the data presented in this section, please contact Christopher at Christopher@ForsythFutures.org or by phone at 336.701.1700 ext. 108.

References

Literature References

Caruso, C. C., Hitchcock, E. M., Dick, R. B., Russo, J. M., & Schmit, J. M. (2004). Overtime and extended work shifts: Recent findings on illnesses, injuries, and health behaviors.  Retrieved from https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/11308

Tabular References

Figures 1-3: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015). American Community Survey 1-year Public Use Microdata [Data files from PUMS 1-year estimates for the year 2014]. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/data/pums.html