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Louisianians believe they are underpaid, survey says

27th October 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Fritz Esker
Contributing Writer

A recent survey of U.S. workers found that Louisianians on average feel they deserve an extra $7,821 a year.

Intelligent Video Solutions conducted the survey in every state. Dustin Stern, vice president of engineering at Intelligent Video Solutions, said the company provides video equipment to help companies with interviewing prospective employees.

“We thought it would be useful to gauge where in the country employees feel they are undervalued when it comes to pay and vacation allowance,” Stern said. “The biggest take-away from the survey is that American workers generally feel significantly underpaid and overworked.”

Why would Louisianians and especially New Orleanians feel they deserve a raise? According to a report by the Data Center (, households spending 35 percent or more of their pre-tax income on housing pay “unaffordable housing costs.” In 2013, 51 percent of New Orleans renters spent more than 35 percent of their pre-tax income on rent. In the rest of the United States, only 42 percent of renters fall into that category. For the rest of the Metro New Orleans Area, the number is 46 percent.

The figures are not as bad for New Orleans homeowners, but still well above the national average. Twenty-seven percent of New Orleans homeowners spend more than 35 percent of their pre-tax income on housing, compared to a national average of 19 percent. The number for the rest of the Metro New Orleans Area is also at 19 percent.

According to the 2011-15 U.S. Census, the median household income (in 2015 dollars) was $36,792 and the per capita income, $27,721. Twenty-seven percent of New Orleanians lived in poverty. The most recent poverty thresholds were $12,486 annually for a single person under 65, $14,507 for a two-person household with a householder 65 years or older and no children, and $24,339 for a family of four with two children under 18.

Those numbers are all significantly different from the rest of the country. On average, 13.5 percent of Americans live in poverty. The median U.S. household income was $56,516 on the most recent census.

On the last census, New Orleans (the city, not the metro area) had 391,495 people. Cities of similar size include Tulsa, OK (403,090); Arlington, TX (392,772); Wichita, KS (389,902); Cleveland, OH (385,809) and Tampa, FL (377,165).

The real estate website indicates that New Orleans has real estate that is, on average, more expensive than any of those cities. Rental prices are equal, if not higher.

The median rent price in New Orleans is $1,550 according to The median price of listed homes in New Orleans is $298,000. In Wichita, the median rent and home price is $875 and $153,900, respectively. In Arlington, the numbers are $1,500 and $215,000. In Tampa, it’s $1,500 and $279,995. In Cleveland, the median home price is $70,000 (median rent not listed). In Tulsa, the numbers are $975 and $175,000.

The problem is that New Orleans’ median income of $36,792 is significantly lower than all of the other cities except Cleveland, whose cost of living is much lower.

The U.S. Census lists the median income in Arlington as $53,055. In Cleveland, it’s $26,179. In Tampa, it’s $48,911. In Wichita, it’s $44,477. In Tulsa, it’s $41,957.

Brooke Duncan III, a board member for NOLA SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and a partner at Adams & Reese LLC who specializes in labor and employment law, said there are multiple possible reasons why New Orleans costs more than many cities and pays workers less than many cities.

“We’re not an industrial city,” said Duncan. “We’re a hospitality-based city and hospitality is not a high-paying industry in most places.”

Duncan added that Adams & Reese has offices throughout the Southeastern United States. He said the firm bases its pay rates not on the cost of living in a city, but on the demand for attorneys in that area. In cities where there’s a more robust oil and gas industry or a bigger healthcare market or more real estate transactions, the need for lawyers will be greater and the pay will reflect that.

The Intelligent Video Solutions survey was not limited to Louisiana residents.

On average, Americans wanted an $11,378 increase in annual salary. The survey also showed that Americans also wanted more days of paid vacation. The majority of Americans only get 10 days per year. European workers average 25-30 days of paid vacation annually. Louisiana residents surveyed felt they deserved an extra eight vacation days a year. That number is a little lower than the national average on the survey, which was 9.5. The highest numbers were from Oregon and Oklahoma, where residents wanted 26.7 more vacation days.

The survey asked respondents if, given a choice, they would prefer a higher salary or more vacation days. The majority of Louisianans surveyed said they would rather have a higher salary. Workers in only six states said they’d take more vacation over more money.

This article originally published in the September 25, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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