Tag Archives: NY Times

Economic survival or economic security — what’s acceptable?

17 Apr Final notice bill

Recently, Sociological Images has had some coverage on what it takes to make ends meet in a household budget.  (Here’s an admission – up until I read the book Making Ends Meet in college, I thought the expression was “making ends meat” and was very confused about what people were doing with the ends of meat in order to get by.  This is almost as good as my thinking that the Elton John song was “Hold Me Closer Tony Danza”.)

As comes up every so often, people are challenging the notion that the federal poverty level is actually workable in reality.  (Here’s the thing, I’m going to disagree with this particular challenge, but recognize that I get that living at 100% of the poverty level is almost unworkable and generally miserable.)  This time, the challenge is coming from Wider Opportunities for Women.  Before getting into the current issue, here’s the background info that you need to know on the federal poverty guidelines:

Federal poverty guidelines were developed in the 1960s based on the thrifty food basket.  The idea was that the average family spends 1/3 of their income on food, so if you could figure out what food a family needed to consume to get by and multiply its cost by 3, you could find a basic level of income needed to get by.  (All of you social science people are probably already seeing flaws in this plan, but remember I didn’t make it up.)    I remember reading the actual list for the original food basket in a Soc class and it was gross (granted, tastes change over time).  (Unfortunately, my search skills seem to be failing me once again and I’m unable to find it.)

Although we may not recognize it in our daily lives, the cost of food has dropped drastically since the federal poverty guidelines were instituted.  (But, it seems like food prices may be on the rise again.)  So, under current economic conditions, none of us spent 1/3 of our income on food.  It seems to make sense that the less money you make, the higher percentage of it that you spend on basic necessities (like food), but there are so many necessities (housing, utilities, transportation, etc.) that there’s no way that 2x what you spend on food is enough to cover all the rest of them.

I guess that was a lot of background…

So, Wider Opportunities for Women is arguing that there’s a big difference between the federal poverty level and what it really takes to get by.  They’re calling this the difference between “economic survival” and “economic security”.  And, generally, I think that they’re right, but what bothers me is how high their “economic security” numbers are.  They say that a single person needs $30,012 to be secure.  And, I can tell you that I’ve spent the last few years making a lot less than that.  It hasn’t always been fun, but I’ve managed to set a budget and make it work.  I’ve managed to save, to put money in my 401(k), and to buy a car (not new, but new to me).  I don’t think I’m a particular thrifty person, either.  For a family of four, they’re calling for a minimum income of $67,920.  What?!  That’s all well and good, but it’s definitely middle class, not just a minimum.

You can think that this is just one crazy study that won’t go anywhere.  (Although it’s already been picked up in the NY Times, too.)  But, it concerns me because of how the numbers might be used in the future.  As Wider Opportunities for Women says in their study (The BEST Index), “The BEST Index is a starting point for workers who want to achieve financial stability, and for the policy­makers, advocates, researchers and service providers who help workers build security.”  I guess I’m concerned that they’re going to push for us to start offering additional government programs and benefits to people making up to these levels instead of the current standard (people normally qualify for benefits  at income levels up to 200% or so of federal poverty level, depending on specific benefits and programs.)  This is a problem because the median household income in the US is only $44,389 (Take that stat with a grain of salt as it comes from Wikipedia, but the Census website is entirely too time consuming and difficult to navigate).  So, where are we going to get money to supplement the income of way more than half of the population?

I realize that this post is trending a little more into political territory than I normally go, but I’m kind of stuck on thinking about it.  Coming from Legal Aid, a lot of my friends got by on a lot less than Wider Opportunities for Women’s suggested income levels.  I get that a lot of us have great, helpful families and support systems.  But, I’m kind of thinking that if we can do it, other people can, too.


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on freshly pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

Social Media and the Fear of Missing Out, Part Two

16 Apr FOMO

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called “Social Media and the Fear of Missing Out”.  And, lo and behold, the NY Times covered the same thing last week (“Feel Like a Wallflower?  Maybe It’s Your Facebook Wall”).  (For purposes of this article making sense, be aware that the Times sometimes abbreviates this to FOMO.)  I love Jenna Wortham’s opening to the piece:

One recent rainy night, I curled up on my couch with popcorn and Netflix Instant, ready to spend a quiet night at home. The peace was sweet — while it lasted. Soon, my iPhone began flashing with notifications from a handful of social networking sites, each a beacon of information about what my friends were doing.

As the alerts came in, my mind began to race. Three friends, I learned, had arrived at a music venue near my apartment. But why? What was happening there? Then I saw pictures of other friends enjoying fancy milkshakes at a trendy restaurant. Suddenly, my simple domestic pleasures paled in comparison with the things I could be doing.

This.  So much.  Sometimes I try to ban myself from my laptop when I’m watching a movie because I know I won’t enjoy it if I’m distracted by all of the “better” things that everyone else is doing.  (Generally, I fail at enforcing the ban.)

But, it goes beyond doubting that what you’re doing in the moment isn’t good enough.  It also leads to doubting what you’re doing with your life.  A friend of mine turned 32 this week.  She’s a lawyer – smart and independent.  In the last year, she’s moved to a new city, started a new job, and made new friends.  All in all, I’d say it’s been a pretty successful year.  But on her birthday she was bummed.  Why?  Well, because her Facebook friends were all posting pictures of their new husbands, new houses, and new babies, and suddenly her accomplishments didn’t seem like nearly enough.

Ms. Jenner also recognizes this bigger problem:

A friend who works in advertising told me that she felt fine about her life — until she opened Facebook. “Then I’m thinking, ‘I am 28, with three roommates, and oh, it looks like you have a precious baby and a mortgage,’ ” she said. “And then I wanna die.”

On those occasions, she said, her knee-jerk reaction is often to post an account of a cool thing she has done, or to upload a particularly fun picture from her weekend. This may make her feel better — but it can generate FOMO in another unsuspecting person.

I’m completely guilty of posting things that make my life seem cool, or at least busy.  (And now you’re thinking, “Maggie, your newfeed doesn’t make your life seem cool.  If you think that’s the cool version of your life, your life must be really lame”.  And now I’m feeling bad…)  But, let’s be honest, we use social media to present idealized versions of ourselves.  No one posts pictures of their babies crying in the middle of the night.  People don’t post about the days it rained on their vacation.  And I don’t update my status to tell you that it’s eight o’clock and I’m getting ready for a thrilling evening of Law & Order in my pajamas.  (Although secretly, those are some of my favorite evenings.)


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on freshly pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

Thus my choice of kitchen implements is validated by the Style Section

20 Mar

So, this is a first.  I had something before the New York Times Style Section said it was trendy.

Nesting doll measuring cups!  Of course, the ones they’re recommending come from MOMA and mine are from Althropologie; but that’s almost the same, right?  (And, really they were a gift.  Thanks for the awesome present, Erin!)

This will probably never happen again.

I told you Hawaii was happy

13 Mar

They do not fit any of the characteristics of the Happiest Man in America, expect maybe the height.

More stats have come out of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.  Someone at the New York Times (who must have spent a lot of time studying the data — I would love to do that! ) figured out who would statistically be the happiest man in America, and then set out to find him. (This seems much more fun than finding the most Average American.)

According to the Index, the happiest man in America would be the following: “a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year”.  You might think it be a bit difficult to find someone with all of those qualities, but find him they did.

Introducing Alvin Wong, also known as The Happiest Man in America.  Please note that he lives in Hawaii (land of pineapple), not Wyoming.

Also, the Times has an infographic about the happiest groups of people.  Check it out here.

Mapping the Nations Well-Being or Why Are People in Wyoming So Damn Happy?

8 Mar

The New York Times has an interactive map of the results of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey.  I get why the people in Hawaii are so happy.  They live in Hawaii.  It’s beautiful, no snow, free healthcare, also, fresh pineapple all the time.   (That last one would be enough for me.)

But, Wyoming?  Why?  It’s not pretty, there’s a lot of snow, I’m pretty sure that their healthcare isn’t all that great, and I bet they don’t get to eat a lot of pineapple.  (Or mangoes…)  But, apparently they’re happy.  Way happier than Ohio anyway.  (We’re clearly in the not so happy group.)

So, explore your (house district’s) happiness or misery according to a number of factors (none of which involved questions about pineapples or mangoes, sadly) at the NY Times.  Played with the map to your heart’s content and still can’t figure out why the people in Wyoming are happy?  Go directly to the source; Gallup will give you more stats than you ever wanted to know.

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