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Five Ways to Research a Living Wage

A living wage can enable an education support professional (ESP) to survive on one full-time job, without support from relatives or government agencies, and have time left over for a real personal and family life. A living wage is sufficient to pay for the basic needs in a given community — including food, housing, transportation, health care, child care, clothing, taxes, personal necessities, and even some modest savings.

A “basic needs budget” is the total of these expenses, calculated monthly and adjusted according to family size, work status of adults in the household, and regional variations in costs. Using estimates of a monthly living wage, Association bargainers/lobbyists can break the numbers down to several different hourly wage figures, reflecting the length of the ESP workday, workweek, and school year.

You can research an area living wage on your own. Here are ways to start:

  1. Go online for living wage calculators and other resources.

  2. Do some research with the help of a local credit union, an area college or university, or a non-profit organization working on economic policy issues.

  3. Look for “self-sufficiency standards” and housing costs on the Web site of a state agency that administers social assistance programs.

  4. Find out if your state government establishes a living wage figure on a regular basis. If so, adjust it for an ESP work schedule.

  5. Devise expenditure categories for a living wage, and have a representative group of ESP members in your local track their monthly expenditures in each of those categories. Then compute average costs.