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[personal profile] viverra
The "living wage" is a calculation of the money needed to maintain a minimal standard of living. It is based on actual budget costs. This is unlike the official "poverty level" calculation, which ignores such necessities as housing, insurance, and transportation (among other things). (Mimimum wage is a political construct which may or may not be based on actual cost data.)

2006 data from the Maine Center for Economic Policy :
A family of four with one wage earner needs $34,248/year. ($16.47/hr).
A household with 2 children and 2 wage earners  requires $51,844/year. (@$12.46/hr). 
A single parent with 2 children requires $40,250 ($19.35/hr).
A single parent with 1 child needs $33,639 ($16.17/hr)
A single person requires $21,211 ($10.20/hr) to meet basic living needs. 

(hourly wage is calculated on 52 weeks of 40-hour work. No vacations.)

This is interesting.

First of all, it allows us to assign a value to being a housewife. A family of two kids and two parents can live on $34,248 a year if one parent works, but needs $51,844 to achieve the same standard of living if both parents work.  Therefore, the presence of a "non-working" parent is worth $17,596 a year ($8.46 an hour).

A single person, according to this study, can get along on $21211 dollars a year.  Two people living separately would need double that, or $42,422.  How much would a couple need?

MCEP didn't have that category, but if you take the cost for two working adults with two kids, and subtract the amount needed for the kids, you should get a reasonable figure.

What is the amount needed for two kids? A single parent with two children needs 40,250 to live; subtract 21,211 for the parent alone, equals a cost of $19,039 for the kids. Subtract this from the amount needed for two working parents/2 kids and you get $32,805.  This should be the minimum amount a couple needs to live in Maine (a minimum livable wage of  $7.88/hour for each wage earner).

Let's play with that. Since a single person can live on $21,211, the cost of adding the second person is $11,594.  The second person saves $9617 by moving in with someone. Or, if expenses are split evenly, each pays $16,402, which is $4809 less than living alone.

Therefore, $4809 to $9617 could be considered the cost one pays to live alone.

It's interesting to have a figure to start from, since so often our society makes an unspoken assumption that if you are single, you somehow have it easy, you are cheating in some way, you are evading the burdens of adulthood, and living without a partner is somehow 'selfish' or 'self-indulgent'. Never mind that you lack the components of a normal support network, that emotionally and physically you have to do everything yourself. The calculations demonstrate a very real financial burden on those who are single.

I almost said 'those who choose to be single', but why do we assume that being single is a deliberate choice? Becoming a couple IS a choice; when the opportunity arises, you can agree to pair up or not. If the opportunity doesn't present itself, if you do not find someone who chooses you as much as you choose them, you remain single by default, no matter how much you might wish otherwise.

A few years ago, there was quite a bit of talk about the IRS's "marriage penalty". Pretty ludicrous, when you realize that they were comparing the taxes of a married couple to those of an unmarried couple. They did not compare the taxes of a couple (married or not) to that of bona fide independent singles. They focused on whether a couple had a piece of paper, rather than whether there were two wage earners in the household. In addressing their own administrative shortcoming, they increased the burden on bona fide singles.

Looking at the tax data, the 2a/2c family with one wage earner pays $1200 in tax, on a $34,248 income. The same family with two wage earners pays $6542 in tax.  A single with a child is taxed $4551, in this case. Two adults, each with a child, would therefore pay $9102; $2560 more than if they combined their households, and $7902 less than if they combined households and one stayed home.

Before you protest tat the taxes are based on different incomes, let me point out that the point of the "livable wage" calculations is that these are the incomes needed to the same base standard of living. Money is only meaninful for what it buys. So although raw wages vary, all these scenarios represent the same standard of living, so it's fair to compare the tax figures.

Iit seems to me that the tax code provides a pretty big incentive for people to pair up, and even for one to become a stay-at-home parent.

A single, meanwhile, pays $3655 in tax for the same standard of living (and doesn't have a built-in social support network).

You can also look at these figures with reference to a divorce. A divorce takes a 2-wage earner/2 child household (needing $51,844) and converts it into a 1-w.e./2-child unit (40,250) plus a 1-w.e. unit ( $21,211). The two units together now require $61,461. The cost of the divorce (apart form legal, emotional, etc.) is therefore $9617 per year. That's a pretty good incentive to immediately jump into another relationship, even if - as is so often true with rebound relationships - it is not a good one.


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