5.14.2015

financial realities and non-realities of life in Manhattan

I am trying to write this from not-my-computer, but rather a mobile device, so we'll see whether it works or not. I've actually been missing blogging a lot. It feels very 2005 to me, but I miss the longer form. I've been having great conversations on Facebook and Twitter, but I am really more of a long-form person, which longtime readers probably know without my explicating it. I have 147 drafts in my drafts folder, stretching from May 2006 to October 2013, so you may seem some of those backlogged posts soon. Maybe. I thought I would start blogging again before, and that didn't happen, so it may not work this time, either.

I recently saw this posted on Facebook:


The outrage is expressed in the tagline, "If you make less than $180,000 a year, you don't exist," because the Wall Street Journal infographic only includes examples of units earning at least $180,000/year. It seems quite...out of touch with actual reality for many people in Manhattan. (See: "Manhattan’s median annual household income is $66,739...where the median monthly rent is $3,100," here.)

It's not just the Wall Street Journal that is guilty of this type of oddly-skewed-to-the-wealthy-while-pretending-that-they-are-middle-class-or-poorer journalism. The New York Times is full of it. In this article ("What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?" 1/18/2013), for example, someone says that "making $250,000 a year is...maybe the upper edge of middle class." Claims like this one, that earning $500,000/year in Manhattan makes you middle class, abound.

I have a hard time with such claims. I think it's really hard for a single person to live on $35,000/year or less in Manhattan, unless (maybe) you manage to find a really cheap rent stabilized apartment in Harlem or Washington Heights or Hamilton Heights and your job comes with excellent medical, vision, and dental benefits. Maybe even $40,000, if you don't have health insurance through your job and don't want to live in a converted apartment (wherein part of the living room becomes a bedroom), in Washington Heights, or in a tiny studio, or if you don't have dental insurance or bad teeth. I am sure that it costs a lot more once you have kids. I don't know if it costs more or less if you're married. (Some people claim that it costs more and some people claim that it costs less. I think it depends on where you're coming from. Two single people sharing a converted one bedroom vs. a married couple sharing a one bedroom seems about the same to me.) But I cannot imagine that a family of four earning $200,000/year is barely squeaking by, or a family of six earning $650,000 is struggling in any way. If they are, move to the 'burbs!

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