Last week, someone on Reddit posed an always interesting question to New Yorkers: What do you do and how much is your salary? And because there's nothing New Yorkers like to do more than talk about money—whether it's our salaries or how much we pay for rent or where to find the cheapest tacos—hundreds of people answered the initial query, revealing a staggering range of incomes and professions. The respondents were everyone from a "stay-at-home dad, occasional writer" who makes "less than $10,000" per year to an "e-book maker at one of the Big Six" who pulls in "$34k" to a "banking accountant—180K plus fully paid for benefits and 401k match plus defined contribution pension. plus 32 days vacation and 8 holidays. (twist: we were cited by the EU and forced out of business and may all get fired on July 14)." Which, that's quite a twist!
This particular Reddit thread is notable for a few reasons, but perhaps the most interesting is how big the difference is in New York salaries for what is, on the surface, the exact same job. While some of this surely has to do with seniority, much of it has to do with the inherent disparity in working for different companies, or working freelance as opposed to having a stable, salaried position. Some of the most glaring differences in wages within the same job include positions in the non-profit sector (salaries reported on Reddit range from $19,000 for a "Development Assistant at a nonprofit" to $35,000 for a "Grant writer at a nonprofit" to $47,000 at a "anti-hunger nonprofit") and also positions in the media world (from the aforementioned $10,000/year "occasional writer" to someone making $42,000 as a "journalist/editor" to a fellow "journalist" making $67,000 to a "writer in advertising" making $200,000).
Skimming through the Reddit thread was compelling because it quickly became clearer than ever (and it was already pretty goddamn clear) that a person's income is only part of his or her financial story. Proving (as much as Reddit can ever "prove" anything) that people's salaries are only a part of their whole financial stories, some commenters clarified whether or not their jobs provided them with free health insurance, or complimentary Metrocards, or even discounted apartments because they worked for a real estate company. Some people claimed to be struggling while making over $100,000/year (making the thread more than a little reminiscent of the infamous post on parenting website Urbanbaby.com wherein a NYC mother claimed to be "poor" while pulling in $700,000/year—when the revolution comes, she'd better be first against the wall) but most just presented their salaries without much comment. And while the variables involved make it impossible to assess a person's quality of life based solely on their salary—for example, $100,000 goes a much longer way if you're living with a roommate (romantic or otherwise) than it would if you were on your own, or, like, married with children aka the biggest money pit ever—it was yet another eye-opening experience on the classic topic of income disparity in New York.
Beyond that though, it was also a reminder of the importance of transparency when it comes to our collective financial reality. Just like we're all interested in seeing the inside of someone's five million dollar home, we also all want to know what kind of money other people are bringing into their home, whether it's a five million dollar spread or a room that's rented for $500/month. Is there an element of voyeurism involved when we look to find out people's salaries? Sure. But it's voyeurism that serves a purpose. In an age when every last bit of private information is aggregated on our computers which are in turn accessed by everyone from Google to, I'm speculating here, Bo Obama, it's essential to have an open dialogue about things that affect us all. Things like gross income disparity and the fact that there's no such thing as a level playing field when it comes to the economic and social spheres of our society. I mean, it's a scary world when the advertisers on Facebook know more about the private workings of your life than your close friends do. It also doesn't do people any favors to think that they are making a competitive salary in their field when, in fact, they're getting screwed. This is the kind of hidden knowledge that only benefits those who are already in positions of privilege and economic power.
So, in light of that, I have looked up some data about the salaries of various New Yorkers who work for the city government so that we can all get a better idea of what our neighbors are bringing home each day. And, I mean, who knew Marty Markowitz pulled home that kinda bank? Well, I would have guessed something approximating that, but some of these salaries were pretty surprising. Obviously, this is just a small sample of government workers' salaries, but I still find it to be both interesting and important information, and relevant to how every New Yorker lives his or her life.