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Dyker’s generalization certainly is neither all wrong nor all correct

February 13th, 2017 · No Comments

Date: Sat, 11 Feb 2017 10:46:38 -0500
From: cabe
Subject: Dyker’s post

John Dyker made the flat statement in his recent Chatlist post that any job is better than no job. That assertion seems overly facile and deserves much more reflection.

Taking a job that pays minimum wage, but requires a car (with the expenses cars entail) and child care (with the expenses child care entails) and possibly other expenses (perhaps new clothes or uniforms), may in fact be a losing proposition. That is, for an individual in such circumstances, that job may indeed be worse than no job. Under those conditions, refusing such a job, or leaving it, seems to me to be an entirely rational and justifiable decision. Parenthetically, I have had students who left school for precisely the same kinds of reasons, despite the evident benefits of gaining an education.

My dear departed mother once complained that a local fast food operation (aka minimum wage job) could not find workers. When I pointed out that it really was difficult or impossible to make enough money in a job like that to live on, she responded that she had. Hmmm…yes, but that was in the 1950s, when an expensive house might cost $20,000, a new car could be had for under $2,000, and gas went for about a quarter a gallon. The deep question here is what is a livable wage.

I understand that the annual employee turnover rate at a typical McDonald’s restaurant is on the order of 300%. That boils down to replacing the restaurant’s entire work force three times a year. Why do they leave? Some perhaps move onward and upward. Many, I strongly suspect, discover the hard economic realities of trying to live on the wages they can make in a job like that.

As one of my colleagues (apparently unaware of the paradox) once told a student: All generalizations are wrong. Dyker’s generalization certainly is neither all wrong nor all correct, but may be either, contingent on an individual’s conditions.

Pat Cabe

Tags: Musings

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