Many people never expect to find themselves living close to the poverty line. But even in Utah’s growing economy, there are many reasons why hard work, education, and housing are not always buffers against the circumstances of poverty. Here are seven ways that poverty affects people in The Beehive State.
1. The Livable Wage and Minimum Wage Do Not Match Up
Every state has a livable wage calculated to determine what is needed for basic necessities. For a single adult in Utah, the current livable wage rate is $10.18 per hour, and the minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour. If you earn minimum wage, you would need to work 56 hours per week to equal a livable wage. At 8 hours a day, that would be working seven days a week. However, this equation does not include any dependents. The problem becomes amplified as you add more people such as young children or those with disabilities.
2. Lack of Affordable Housing
The median gross rental rates for Utahin 2014 was $934. As a general rule, affordable living means spending less than 30% of your monthly income on rent. If you earn a livable wage, affordable rent would only be $407 per month. In addition, many landlords and property management companies are not flexible about credit scores and background checks for renting. It can be tough to find a home that is welcoming and supported on the income you bring in.
3. Costs of Necessities Are On the Rise
When it comes to needs and wants, the cost of basic needs are on the rise. Food, healthcare, utilities, and rent are all seeing rising costs that are not met with rising inflation in wages. People are paying more for less. In comparison, the costs of luxury goods (like a smartphone) are going down.
4. Lack of Opportunities and High Competition
Depending on where you live in Utah, lack of opportunities and competition are huge factors for job seekers. In rural areas, there is a lack of open positions that pay a livable wage and encourage education or growth within a company. Alternatively, in urban areas, there are so many people competing for a single position, it is difficult to get a foothold in a career or company.
5. Reduction in Entry-Level Jobs
To further exasperate the job seeking, there is a decrease in low-skilled and entry-level jobs. Many new jobs in Utah are in the tech and IT industries, which usually requires some form of secondary education for entry-level positions.
6. The Wage Gap
While the wage gap between men and women is an issue for women across the country, it impacts Utah women and families especially. The 2015 Poverty Report by Community Action Partnership of Utah states that, “HALF of all single mothers (with no partner present) and their young children under five are living in poverty in Utah.” Add to this that women on average earn 70 cents to the dollar, it is an uphill climb for women and families in Utah.
7. Life Skills
Most people in the middle class are raised with an understanding of budgeting, setting goals, and planning for the future. Those raised in poverty often lack these skills because energy is spent on day-to-day survival. Poverty is more than lack of funds. Your income translates to resources, skills, and education– all things needed and often not available for those living in poverty.
Facing a single one of these seven issues can be difficult for anyone, and most people living at or near the poverty line face more than one of these factors.