@stuffisthings Okay, I was getting ready to reply in earnest to what you're saying about wages and productivity, but after reading this thread, it's clear that no one here is interested in having a discussion about anything; you all are interested in attacking me personally. In a single thread I've been called racist, obnoxious, offensive, patronizing, nasty, and classist (am I missing anything?) simply for not swallowing whole the premise of this article, and even the more civil responses have been unbelievably arrogant. So go ahead, keep making quips about lattes while others pat you on the back for your brilliance. I'm checking myself out of The Billfold because what I thought was a cross-cultural personal finance blog is just another Internet clique.
@stuffisthings I promise I'm not just trying to throw back everything you say in your face just for the sake of it, but I would like to point out that your point about labor productivity is also somewhat misleading. Many minimum wage jobs such as cashiering have not seen significant productivity gains in the last few decades (although average labor productivity over all jobs has seen significant gains). There's still an argument to be made that the higher value of the average man-hour should also move the minimum wage, but the argument is significantly weaker than if you were to (falsely) assert that minimum-wage workers have themselves become significantly more productive.
@stuffisthings Look, I even kind of agree with you. Barring exceptional circumstances, one should be an affordable number of children for people to have. But that’s still not really the point. Who decides how many children is an “appropriate” number that ought to be supportable by the minimum wage? It’s not off topic to point out a related policy issue that also has to do with the number of children people end up having. The responses I'm seeing are kind of suggesting to me that the only acceptable comment to make on the article would have been to say "Yep, this definitively proves that $9/hour is the right amount for the minimum wage; no further comments."
@Jake Reinhardt I assure you, I did not miss the point. My exact contention was that phrasing the question as you did, "the minimum wage should allow these people to be able to afford a child", is putting the cart before the horse. Assuming that the minimum wage was $9/hour, and they were both able to get full-time work, perhaps we can speculate that they would then be able to cover their living expenses and their daughter's. Fine. Would they then be able to afford to have another child? What about two more children? (Let's say for the sake of argument that they would want to have two more children if they had unlimited resources.) Probably not; $9/hour would be insufficient to support three children and two adults. Is that fair? No. People making more money than them will find it more affordable to have more children. That is a fact that will remain constant no matter what the minimum wage is. I'm not saying that there's not a legitimate discussion to be had about raising the minimum wage. But at every wage level, couples will have to face decisions about how many children (if any) they can afford, regardless of what they would desire in a perfect world. If all couples were able to make this decision and execute it perfectly, they would gain a lot of agency over their economic futures. The point is that many couples, EVEN IF this is not the case with the couple in the article, make that decision but are unable to stick to it due to circumstances beyond their control, such as not having access to affordable contraception. Because that is so frequently the case with families who have to adopt ad hoc solutions (eg. dropping out of school and taking a minimum wage job) to make ends meet, my point was relevant to this conversation. It's certainly not the only one that warrants discussion, of course. By the way, I don't want to get too personal here, but lest you guys think I'm being all "them, them, them" about this, I just want to say the reason why I'm being so vocal here is because this struck very close to home. I have been in this situation. I'm not just saying a lot of words because I'm an insane person.
@r&rkd For a monthly plan, $40 is about as low as they come unfortunately. If you've been a customer for a while, you can call and negotiate your rate (I was at $33 with T-Mobile for a while before switching to a family plan when I got married). In the past I have cancelled cell phone service all together, but depending on your work/personal needs that may not be feasible. But don't rule out prepaid phones; they might actually be a better deal depending on your individual usage. I just felt for someone down to his last $20, even the $15 savings would be worth something.
@hallelujah I assume that when somebody is paying more for something for which there is a better price available, they would prefer the lower price were a friend to tip them off to it. The fact that they're not already paying the lower price implies to me that they "probably" (not "certainly") don't know it's available. For example, I would be paying a higher rent now had my friend not alerted me to a better lease available. Clearly my friend is a patronizing jerk who assumed I was too stupid to do my own research and find the best available rent myself. Also, I happen to be a woman. Therefore my friend also hates women. I'll go ahead and put his award in the mail too.
@Michelle Thank you; you said exactly what I was trying to get at.
@City_Dater Look, I acknowledged that my interpretation of their situation was speculation (as is yours), but the circumstances indicate that they weren't actively looking to have a child. So obviously while it's possible to choose definitely not to have a child (abstinence, blah blah), of course even with the most comprehensive of publicly available family planning programs some family somewhere will likely still end up having a kid. The question is, can THE MAJORITY of people who realize they can't afford to have children manage not to do so? Right now, no. Contraception and related medical services are expensive. Education about family planning is poor at best. That statement is not a judgment about people who forgo contraception for whatever reason, have an imperfect understanding of their options, or who used contraception that failed. It's simply an observation that on a population-wide level, cases where people have to support an entire family on very low-wage jobs can be reduced when they have better control over when to have children. By the way, I don't disagree that childcare is expensive for any family. But childcare for all families was not a topic this article discussed at all.
@hallelujah Hur hur, aren't you a clever and brave defender of The Coloreds. Read my comment again, I said family planning/contraception should be a SOCIAL investment; i.e. available to the public and paid for by the public. I have no idea why you think that saying that the price of a service is expensive is a personal attack made on the person purchasing the service (and moreover, that the attack was made because said purchaser is both poor and "of color"). Maybe you have never been like, "WHOA you pay only $X for service Y? Mine costs $(X + 20)!", but obviously that is because you are so much smarter and better informed than us nasty, ignorant racists.
@Sallymander Also the dude is paying too much for his cell phone. Someone tell him! He probably doesn't know.