“It’s like the Fourth of July, except in March.” That’s how MDCer and Savannah, Georgia, native Leslie Howell described her hometown’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Growing up in Savannah, Leslie remembers having a school holiday and arriving at the parade route early to get a good spot to see high school marching bands and—her favorite—the prancing Clydesdales. Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is the third-largest in the world; there are more than 300,000 people expected to come out for this year’s festivities. (The parade has been held annually—with a few exceptions—since the early 1800s, the parade beginnings coinciding with an influx of Irish immigrants.)
But not everyone gets to take the day off for the parade. Paid time off is just one of the benefits that make up a good job–one that pays enough to cover basic living expenses and is stable enough for saving and wealth building. Neither Babs nor I want to rain on your parade, but you could use more good jobs, Savannah (like most of the South.)
According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, in Savannah you need to make at least $18.30 an hour to meet the needs of a family (in this case, that’s one adult one child and their housing, food, medical care, child care, and transportation needs). This table shows the number of projected job openings projected for a variety of occupations in Savannah, along with the median earnings for those positions. Those in red in the far right column are the earnings that don’t meet this living wage standard.
If you look closely, the jobs with the highest project openings are also those with earnings below the living wage. This isn’t a new trend, however. Data from PolicyLink’s National Equity Atlas show that between 1990-2012, job growth in Savannah was much higher in low-wage occupations:
And people of color are less likely to be in those jobs paying at least $15 an hour (PolicyLink’s baseline for a living wage), which has implications for equity and efforts to close the racial wealth gap:
A significant amount of low-wage work means a significant number of individuals and families living at or near poverty. Step Up Savannah is one organization addressing economic disparities in the city and tackling the city’s 26 percent poverty rate. They support workforce training and wealth-building activities—from apprenticeships to banking services to free tax preparation—to low-wage workers throughout Savannah. One nationally recognized effort (featured at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative meeting) is a partnership with Consumer Credit Counseling Service to improve workplace-based financial education and to develop and pilot a workplace-based small dollar loan. Step Up Savannah is developing a toolkit that other organizations and employers can use to assist lower-wage workers with similar products. With initiatives like this, Savannah residents won’t have to rely on luck (of the Irish or anyone else) to secure good take-the-day-off-for-the-parade jobs!