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Duplicate or distribute this activity. Students may work independently or cooperatively.

Comparing Wages
In this program you learned how much a warehouse supervisor and a day care provider earn. Expand your knowledge of how much various jobs pay by doing research. You can find statistics at the Bureau of Labor’s Web site (

• Find out typical rates of pay for at least ten different jobs.

• Convert all figures to dollars per hour.

• Create a bar graph showing your results.

Afterward, compare your graph with those of others and discuss the rates for various jobs. Share opinions on which jobs seem deserving of higher pay, and which seem too highly paid.

Notes: You are doing something that even professional wage analysts have a hard time with: dealing with what is called "comparable worth." Keep in mind that it is very difficult to try to assign monetary value to different types of jobs without putting the job in the context of responsibility, value to the organization, education required, or degree of hard work. Consider these. Also, you might do your own research on "Wages in the United States" using sites listed in Livelyhood’s resources section (

Finally, as an exciting extension, check out Livelyhood’s "Living Wage" feature ( How does this feature affect your opinion? What do you think about offering a Living Wage in light of your research graph and opinion sharing? If you are interested in exploring the Living Wage debate further, try the Living Wage exercise in the Livelyhood "Our Towns" Teachers Guide. (

How Do You Slice It?
When work regularly requires extra hours, the time available for all other activities shrinks, and the quality of life may diminish substantially. In Segment 4, Tina Williford reports that she worked 60-hour weeks before making a change. Explore the effects of such a schedule on a person’s life.

• Estimate how many hours a week Tina probably spent commuting, how many hours she was awake and not working, and how many hours she was asleep. Represent in a pie chart what portion of her week each of these activities represented.

• Next, talk to four other people to find out how much time each one spends working, commuting, awake not working, and sleeping each week. Make pie charts to illustrate these figures.

Compare and discuss the charts. Think about how you would like to divide your time, and draw a pie chart that shows what you consider to be the ideal balance for your own life.

An extension to this exercise would be to consider ways to cut down on commute time, using Livelyhood’s Transportation and Commute Solutions sites. Or, think of ways employers might help workers with balance work and life through policy and practices. The following sections, also on the Livelyhood resource page (, can help:

Work and Family, Workplace Benefits and Protection, Worker Health and Safety.

A Better Life
Like the Riveras, most parents want their children to do better economically than they did. Americans have a tradition of increasing the standard of living from generation to generation. However, some recent statistics show that today’s younger generations are not achieving the same increase in wealth their parents achieved. Do some research of your own to find out what the truth is about "doing better than your parents did." The Bureau of the Census ( publishes reports on this and many other topics! One particular report located at ( actually maps the difference in income from 1969 to present day. Alternatively, do your own detective work, using the Livelyhood Resources page ( "Learn about Work: A Starting Point for Online Research" section.

• Find out what the average American family earned in the year 1999.

• Find out what the average American family earned in 1989, 1979, 1969, 1959, and 1949. Graph your findings.

• Considering the rate of inflation, have real wages increased over the past 50 years? If so, by how much?

• In the next ten years, by how much would wages have to increase for the average American family to see a rise in real income? (Remember to take into account the rate of inflation.)

Use your research to predict whether American families will continue improving their standard of living, or whether wages are likely to stagnate in the near future, resulting in a decrease in the average family’s standard of living.

As an extension, you might compare your predictions against those of others by browsing sites in Livelyhood’s "Predicting the Future of Work" section, on the Livelyhood Resource page (!