Key Findings

Across the board, workers in Idaho are not earning enough to make ends meet.

For four of five household types, less than half of all workers earn a living wage.

Only 51 percent of workers in the state earn enough for a single adult to make ends meet.

Only 18 percent earn enough to support two adults with two children, with one adult working.

Race and Ethnicity Matters in Idaho

Data was available for white, Asian, Native American, and all workers of color, as well as for Latino and non-Latino workers. Native Americans and all workers of color were less likely to earn a living wage for all household types than was true for the overall working population. Latinos were less likely to earn a living wage than were non-Latinos.

The widest gap between workers of color and all workers is for the household with two working adults with two children. Forty-one percent of all workers earn a wage greater than or equal to the living wage for two working adults with two children, but only 27 percent of workers of color earn enough to provide their half of the income needed for such a family. This is also the household with the largest gap for Native American workers, who also only earn a living wage 27 percent of the time.

Only 11 percent of Native American workers and 13 percent of all workers of color earn a living wage for two adults and two children, with only one adult working.

Only 6 percent of Latino works earn a living wage to support a family with two adults and two children, with only one adult working. Only 9 percent earn enough for a single adult with two children to make ends meet.

Gender Matters in Idaho

Across all household types, women were less likely than men to earn a living wage.

The widest gap between female workers and male workers is for the household with two working adults and two children. Just under a third of women earn enough to support such a household, compared to nearly half of men.

Only 43 percent of female workers earn a living wage for a single adult.

Only 11 percent of female workers earn enough to support two adults and two children with only one adult working.

Citizenship Matters in Idaho

Across all household types, non-citizens were less likely than citizens to earn a living wage.

The widest gap between non-citizens and citizens is for the household with a single adult. Only 30 percent of non-citizens earn enough for a single adult to make ends meet, compared to 52 percent of citizens.

Only 10 percent of non-citizens earn enough for two adults with two children, with only one adult working.

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Mayra De Alba – Heyburn, Idaho

“I just don’t think my dream will ever come true.”

Personal Testimony: Mayra De Alba

Someday, I would love to work in a restaurant as a cook — just ask my brothers to tell you how good my cooking is! For now, though, I live at home with my parents and two brothers, and my parents and I work in the potato fields. It’s not at all what I want to do, but finding work hasn’t been easy.
My friends have referred me to jobs — usually as a dishwasher or busser at a restaurant, where I could at least get my foot in the door — and I have even had interviews, but it never works out. I speak Spanish and not much English, so the language barrier is part of it. But, it’s even harder without a driver’s license. Even though I know that I can get a ride and I tell employers that, they end up hiring someone else. A few times, I’ve even shown up for work at a new job and had them tell me they found someone else. It’s very discouraging.

Working in the potato fields is horrible — I cried when I realized that this was my only option. They don’t let us take breaks, and sometimes they don’t even let us stop for lunch. I am supposed to earn $9 an hour, but sometimes I don’t get paid at all unless one of my father’s friends who speaks English threatens to report them. The job is 45 minutes away from our home, and it’s just not dependable.

Because the work is seasonal, the hours change throughout the year and our income goes up and down with the change in hours. At peak season, we might work from 7 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., but in the late summer and early fall we only work until 11 a.m. By November, there will be no more work for me, and very few hours for my parents. At least my brothers’ jobs are year-round, but it will still mean tightening up our budget even more to make the money we have go as far as possible during the winter months.

I’ve always wanted to own a café and be a business owner, or at least support myself and have my own apartment. Right now, we can’t even afford to go to the doctor or dentist, and we have to rent a house. When winter comes, it will be even more difficult to scrape by. I can’t even think about going to school to try to better my chances of getting the job I want. I just don’t think my dream will ever come true.

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