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Lesson Plans

Living Wage Resource Guide

November 21, 2013

Full Lesson


As the cost of living goes up in urban centers throughout the country, stagnant wages are making it harder for poor and working class families. The debate over minimum wage, the very least employers can legally pay their workers on an hourly basis, has turned into a fight over “living wage”, the amount a worker needs to meet a family’s minimum needs.

This resource guide provides six different ways to examine the topic of a living wage through activities, videos and text.

1. One NYC family’s struggle to survive on a fast food salary | Resource

High unemployment has been one of the nation’s most vexing problems since the recession. But increasingly, there are also mounting concerns about what constitutes a good job and a fair wage in an era of rising inequality. In this video and Educator Resource Guide, PBS NewsHour explores the story of one family struggling to make it in New York City.

2. What is Poverty? | Lesson Plan


This introductory lesson is from and is posted on Students compare the federally defined poverty level with the cost of basic necessities in their own community. They research what percentage of people in their community and/or state live in poverty, and calculate what wage people would need to earn to meet his or her basic needs. Students go on to explore possible solutions to poverty.

3. Waging a Living: Living Wage v. Minimum Wage: What’s the Difference? | Lesson Plan


Explore the history of wage policy in the United States and describe the difference between minimum wage and living wage. This lesson plan is designed to be used in conjunction with viewing the film “Waging a Living”.

4.  Librada Paz: The Continuing Struggle of Farmworkers in the United States | Bio, Interview + Lesson Plan


At the age of 15, Librada Paz left her indigenous community in southern Mexico in search of an opportunity to improve life for her family. She has since become a leading voice for immigrant workers in fields and farms in New York and across the United States.

5. ‘Living Wage’ Laws Create Both Winners And Losers | Resource


In September 2013, the D.C. city council passed a living wage law that would require large retailers to pay $12.50 an hour, more than the city’s current $8.25 minimum wage. The measure sparked a battle with Wal-Mart, which was slated to open several new stores in the District.  The mayor vetoed the bill. To learn more about living wage bills throughout the country, Audie Cornish speaks to David Neumark, professor of economics and director of the Center for Economics and Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine.

6. How Much Do You Need to Survive: An Interactive Guide to the Living Wage | Resource

This video, from PBS NewsHour’s Paul Solman, examines the Self-Sufficiency Standard which was created by Dr. Diana Pearce as a geographic specific yardstick for how much is enough to live on independent from public or private assistance. At MIT, Amy K. Glasmeier has created a user-friendly calculator based in large part on Pearce’s work that makes it easy to find what it takes to be self-sufficient in your area.

— Complied by Katie Gould for NewsHour Extra