Dr. Anthony O. Parker

There has been much discussion recently about the National Minimum Wage. Please know that I’m not offering an opinion on what the minimum wage should be. I know that chambers of commerce, economists and politicians will eventually make an informed decision.

However, I’ve had firsthand experience working for a minimum wage job as a teenager and as a young adult. I worked at McDonald’s, as a department store clerk, a school bus driver, and as a hospital orderly. Subsequently, I learned that I couldn’t survive long term as a single person, and I certainly couldn’t raise a family.

What my young family needed was a sustaining wage. My observation was that a family sustaining wage was significantly higher than the minimum wage. In my opinion, a family sustaining wage is the amount needed to resolve basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, education, healthcare, and savings.   

In Albany Tech’s seven county service delivery areas, a family of four must earn more $417.50 per week, $1,810 per month, and $21,715 a year to barely escape poverty. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, $290.00 per week, $1,317 per month and $15,080 a year. By my estimate, the current minimum wage is $6,635 below the poverty level for a family of four. By my estimate, this same SW Georgia family of four must have an income of $1,300 per week, $5,633 per month, or $67,600 per year to begin to be considered prosperous or affluent. Obviously, the minimum wage isn’t adequate. 

What must a family for four do to earn at least $67,600 a year? Being lucky or doing nothing isn’t a good strategy. Economic utility and a relevant workforce skill set is required. Some will obtain the needed workforce skills with a high school education and on the job training.  However, most workers will need at least one year of applicable education from a two-year technical college to meet the needed qualifications. The state of Georgia provides opportunities for high school students, high school graduates, and adults who did not complete high school to gain the skills needed for a family sustaining wage. The Technical College System of Georgia, through its 22 colleges at over 50 locations, provide an opportunity to obtain the economic utility needed to earn a family sustaining wage in as little as six weeks to two months. 

It’s my hope that each adult will strive to obtain employment at or above a family sustaining wage. I further hope that those without adequate economic utility will use the minimum wage as an incentive to acquire relevant workforce skills.