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BY PROFESSOR SCOTT NEARING. The manifest shortcomings of an "average” as a means of describing wages have led statisticians to the use of classified wages. Instead of saying that the wages of 1,000 men average $2.83, the statistician notes that of the 1,000 men, 28 receive a wage of from $1.00 to $1.49; that 324 receive a wage of from $1.50 to $1.99, and so on. By this means, a group picture is made of the amount received by all of the wage-earners.

There are a number of rather complete summaries of the wages paid in certain American industries—chiefly manufacturing. A brief statement of some of the more important classified wage figures appears in the following table: The Wage Rates of Adult Males Employed in

Manufacturing Industries.

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The manufacturing industries of the north and east pay to the adult wage-earners wage rates of less than $1,000 in nine-tenths of the cases. With the exception of California, the percentage of men receiving less than $750, and the percentage receiving less than $1,000, are remarkably uniform. The one-tenth of the adult male wage-earners who receive wage rates of more than $1,000 a year are the income aristocracy of the wage-earning class. They are, for the most part, protected by powerful trade unions, by long terms of apprenticeship or by special training.

A diagram brings out, in striking form, the more detailed facts of the American wage scale. Massachusetts, one

of the leading manufacturing states of the Union, reports the wage scale for a larger number of persons than any other state.

The Weekly Wage-Rates paid to 436,576 adult males in the Manufacturing Industries of Massachusetts, 1912: 6

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The diagram is illuminating. Almost exactly four-fifths of the adult males at work in one of the largest manufacturing states of the Union are receiving wage rates ranging from $8 to $20 per week. Ten men in 100 receive $20 per week or over and three men in 100 receive $25 per week or over. The great bulk of the men at work in the manufacturing industries of Massachusetts are paid a wage rate of less than $20 a week.

The fact should be emphasized that these figures show not what people earn, but the amounts paid by industry to those who do its work. The wage scale is set in each industry. Let 1,000 seek places in the factories of Massachusetts. They would find a wage scale already in existence that would pay to 500 of them less than $15 per week and to 900 of them less than $20 a week.

Most wage-workers do not earn in a year 52 times the weekly wage rate. Unemployment, varying in intensity from one trade to another, reduces yearly earnings a tenth, a fifth, or sometimes even a third.? Wage-workers earn wages only while they work and work in modern industry is a gravely uncertain quantity.

The American wage—the amount paid by American industry to its workers-may be characterized briefly in these terms. A comparatively small percentage (from 5 to 10 in 100) of the persons gainfully employed in modern industry

are on a salary basis. The vast majority of the employees (from 90 to 95 in

100) are paid a wage or its Summary of Wage Rates equivalent. Among

those in American Industry

who work for wages, the great majority (about nine

tenths of the adult males) (No allowance for unemployment)

receive wage rates of $1,000

per year or less. The wage1/10 $1,000 and over

rates of two-thirds of the males fall below $750; a third

below $500. These state2/10 $750 to $1,000

ments make no allowance for unemployment, which is a

constant, irreducible factor. Under $750

Unemployment due to lack 7/10

of work alone is generally met with.8 Add to this the unemployment resulting from sickness, accidents, and other personal causes, and the pro

portion is still higher. 1 The meagre wage figures covering transportation, municipal utilities, mercantile establishments and mines indicate that the wages paid in the manufacturing industries are fairly. typical of wages paid by other industries in the same locality requiring a like amount of ability or training. See Income, Scott Nearing, New York, The MacMillan Company, 1915, Chapter 4.

Compiled from the Reports of the State Bureau of Labor.

3 Census of Manufactures, 1905, Bulletin 93, Earnings of Wageearners, Washington, 1908, p. 11.

* Report on the condition of Employment in the Iron and Steel Industry, Senate Document 110, 62d. Congress, 1st Session, Volume I.,

6 Compiled from the Reports of the Tariff Board, from the Report by the Federal Department of Labor on the Strike at Lawrence, 1912, and from the State Reports.

• Statistics of Manufactures for Massachusetts, 1912, Boston, 1914,

? Work and Wages, S. J. Chapman, Part II, New York, Longmans, Green & Company, 1908, Chapter 15; Unemployment in the U. S., Scott Nearing, Quarterly Publications of the American Statistical Ass'n. Vol. I, Sept. 1909, pp. 530-535.

8 An idea of the extent of unemployment may be gained from the reports of the New Jersey and the Massachusetts Labor Bureaus, showing the number of days worked in the various industries. See Bureau of Statistics of New Jersey, 1913, Paterson, 1914, pp. 125-126; also statistics of manufactures for 1911, Bureau of Statistics for Massachusetts, Public Document No. 36, Boston, p. 137.

p. xxvi.

p. 84.



A number of attempts to ascertain the cost of a decent standard of living have been based on the assumption that physical health, education up to the age of fourteen, and the other minimum requirements of modern American life were included in the term “decency.”

There is a certain minimum of food,' clothing, shelter and the other necessaries of life below which physical health and social decency are impossible. That minimum exists in terms of bread and butter, shoes, overcoats, medical attendance and school books. It is fixed by the demands of nature and by the standards of society, wholly independent of cost or price; therefore, any discussion of the cost of a decent living begins with an analysis of the various items which comprise living decency. The amount of food required by the man or by his family can be fixed with scientific accuracy. The amount of clothing is not susceptible of such an accurate statement but it can be designated in terms of a certain number of garments per year. Most students of the standard of living have agreed that three or four rooms are necessary to house a family of five people decently. They have, likewise, made an allowance for medical attendance, for saving, for insurance, and for recreation.

After the number of things necessary to maintain a decent standard of living has been decided upon, the question of cost is raised. A family requires so much flour, so many pairs of shoes, and so many rooms. What is the least amount for which these things can be obtained? The answer to that question, worked out for a number of eastern cities, has placed the cost of a decent living for a family of five at from $750 to $1,000 per annum.1

The amount fixed by the recent standard of living studies is a minimum. One of the most complete investigationsthat made by the federal government--allowed $744 per year for the maintenance of a family of five in a Massachusetts city. Six-sevenths of this entire amount was expended for food, clothing and shelter, leaving only a little more than $100 a year for all of the other items in the family budget.

The exact apportionment of this sum was as follows:


Per Week.

Per Year.

Food ...
Fuel and light

$ 6.02


$313.00 131.00 136.80 42.75 11.65 18.25 90.90


$744.35 The Chapin study was made for the purpose of determining the cost of a fair or decent standard of living in New York City. In summing up the results of his study, Dr. Chapin writes: 3 "An income of $900 or over probably permits the maintenance of a normal standard, at least so far as the physical man is concerned.” Regarding incomes below $900, Dr. Chapin makes the following statement: "Whether an income between $800 and $900 can be made to suffice is a question to which our data do not warrant a dogmatic answer."

One other less complete, but highly satisfactory study of standards of living has been made in the Stock Yards District of Chicago. After an exhaustive investigation, the author reports that the minimum amount necessary to support a family of five efficiently in the Stock Yards District is $800 per year.4

There have been several other investigations, the most recent estimate, made in 1915 by the Bureau of Standards of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment in New York City, sets the amount for that city at $840, and estimates less complete and less conclusive, which lead to the same general conclusion, namely, that in the industrial cities of the northeastern United States, the cost of a decent standard of living for a family consisting of a man, wife and three young children, varies from $750 to $1,000.

1 Financing the Wage-earner's Family, Scott Nearing, New York, B. W. Huebsch, 1911, ch. V.

2 Woman and Child Wage-earners in the United States, Senate Doc. No. 645, 61st Congress, 2nd Session, 1911, Vol. XVI, p. 244.

8 The Standards of Living Among Workingmen's Families in New York City, R. C. Chapin, New York, Charities Publication Committee, 1909, p. 245.

4“Wages and Family Budgets”. John C. Kennedy and others, University of Chicago Press, 1914, p. 80.

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