REPORT: To Survive, People of Color Frequently Need More Than One Job

By Kenrya Rankin Dec 08, 2015

A new report from the Alliance for a Just Society (AJS) shows that when it comes to making enough money to survive, one job is often not enough for people of color in the United States.

Titled “Patchwork of Paychecks,” the report pulls back the curtain on monthly jobs numbers and shows that while unemployment may be inching downward, part-time schedules and low wages mean that millions of workers are not earning enough to support themselves. Released today (December 8), it’s the latest dispatch in AJS’ Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series. The organization’s October report calculated the living wage in all 50 states and the nation’s capital. Today’s findings reveal just how hard it is to secure full-time work that pays that wage, which allows a family to meet its basic needs without need for public assistance. "Patchwork of Paychecks" key findings:

Scarcity. While there are 17 million-plus people currently looking for jobs, there are only 5 million positions available. Of them, just 2.7 million pay $15+ per hour.

Incongruence. Of the five fasting growing occupations in the U.S., four of them—cashiers, waiters, retails salespersons and food preparation and service workers—average less than $15 an hour. They also tend to be part-time positions, which not only cuts earning potential, but decreases workers’ chance of having employer-sponsored health insurance.

Disparity. Workers of color and women are more likely to land part-time work than their counterparts. While 35.2 percent of working women log fewer than 40 hours a week, that percentage drops to 17.1 percent for men. Just 16.1 percent of White men work part-time jobs, 32.9 percent of women of color do. And fully 37.4 percent of Latinas labor in part-time jobs.

Among the report’s recommendations are to increase the federal minimum wage to $15, which groups have been advocating for, notably during November’s Fight for $15 day of protests. AJS also suggests reserving state and federal subsidies for business that offer full-time jobs that pay a living wage, improving company scheduling practices, strengthening the nation’s social service safety net, and supporting workers who organize to bargain for more beneficial working conditions.