Back in November, I shared a piece about the "Real Media Salaries Spreadsheet" that was started by one of my colleagues and publicized the incomes of more than a thousand people working in media.
Now the New York Times has published a great new piece about this movement, on the breakdown of the taboos around pay transparency:
Open discussions of pay lay bare some of the basic contradictions that govern so many workplaces, which claim to embrace their workers like family while insisting, all the while, on professionalism and discretion. They are communities whose members care about one another and yet also know that their respective right to belong is based on their utility, perceived or actual. To ask a co-worker her salary — especially one who has worked at an institution for years — opens up deeper, unsettling questions. How valued are you in this community? Are you more valued than I am, or beyond what I perceive as your worth? Or have you undervalued yourself, been timid, clueless, exploited?
The article does a fair job of approaching the issue from different differences, including the social and professional comfort involved with even trying to change the expectations around salary secrecy, and the actual data that reveals what happens when money matters are aired out in the open:
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[U]sing data from a happiness survey that has been conducted in Norway since 1985 … Perez-Truglia found that the newfound accessibility of other people’s pay led to a significant increase in the happiness gap: Higher-income earners were happier than they were before the information was widely available, and lower-income workers were less happy.
I'm in a private Slack with some other media/journalist people, and someone brought up the idea of pay transparency. After all: if you don't know what your colleagues are being paid, it's hard to negotiate for a fair rate. We're all conditioned to believe that our financials should be private, but as far as salaries are concerned, that secrecy only ever tends to work in favor of your employer.
So this particular someone made a Google Form and a corresponding spreadsheet where journalists and other media professionals could anonymously add their salary information. And in barely 24 hours, it's spread to CJR and Bloomberg and even inspired Mike Cernovich to go off on some completely unsubstantiated rant to set off his army of loyal trolls because apparently all journalists are scum and also trustfund babies even though there isn't any proof of that (and I can personally assure you that my personal information is on that list and that my public school teacher mom and print salesman dad are not rolling in the dough).
As of this writing, more than 200 people have responded. On one hand, it is admittedly difficult to verify the claims contained within the data. On the other hand, there's still lots of eye-opening information to glean. Unsurprisingly, there are pay disparities across race and gender; but the same thing happens across geographic location, and work experience. Perhaps the most shocking revelation so far is just the absurd range of income of people working in news media. Read the rest
New US Census Bureau data shows that while the median household income for the United States (and 14 states within the USA) increased a bit from 2017 to 2018, "income inequality was significantly higher during the same period for the nation and nine states.... Maryland ($83,242) was among the states with the highest median household income and West Virginia ($44,097) was among the lowest."
More data and an interactive version of the map: "2018 Median Household Income in the United States" (Census.gov)
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The Palo Alto Weekly in Silicon Valley asked more than 250 residents of that city "How do you define your social class?" From the survey results (PDF):
Seventy-five identified themselves as "upper middle class." Their self-reported incomes ranged from $50,000 to $400,000 or more (with one retiree reporting $35,000-$49,999)... Eighty-one people considered themselves "middle class." Their self-reported incomes ranged from $10,000 to $399,999....Seventeen considered themselves "lower middle class" or "working class." Their self-reported income ranged from $35,000 to $349,999. Four reported being in the "upper class," three of whom reported earning $400,000 a year or more (the fourth is retired).
Eighty-nine people declined to answer the question or wrote their own answers, including that they were "disenfranchised," "former middle class" and "survivors in an unjust capitalist society."
"The meaning of 'middle class'" (Palo Alto Weekly)
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Anna Rosling Rönnlund, co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, asked Swedish students where they thought they fell on the global income spectrum. They guessed somewhere in the middle; they were wrong. After having 264 homes photographed in 50 countries and collecting 30,000 photos, she made this tool to help everyone understand the world – and how they fit in – a little better.
Want to see how people at your income level live in other countries? Of course you do.
It's the perfect antidote to Instagram-induced envy. Actually, I'd like to see someone curate a Selby or Apartmento-style lookbook from these images. Anyone? Read the rest
Colin Gordon at Dissent summarizes new national income statistics for America's wealthiest, something that seems likely to worsen under Trump. Since Reagan, the US has been been edging toward income share levels not seen since before World War II. Read the rest
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition has released a new report with a startling fact Read the rest
At the PsySociety blog, Melanie Tannenbaum looks at the meta-analysis cited by Erik Erikson of Redstate.com as proof that low-income families fare worse when mom works outside the home — and finds that it says exactly the opposite. This post is notable not only for deconstructing a "common sense" belief, but also for doing a great job of explaining what a meta-analysis is and why it matters. Also provides a full daily serving of Fox News schadenfreude. Read the rest