Do you feel bad about yourself when, in a moment of weakness, you swing by the fast-food drive-thru and inhale a combo meal or placate the kiddies with some chicken nuggets?
Next time that happens, here's a reason to feel worse: A new study has found that the low wages paid by fast-food restaurants puts a $7 billion burden on taxpayers in the form of public-assistance programs that workers at these establishments utilize to make ends meet.
The study, by the University of California at Berkeley, found that 52 percent of the families of fast-food workers rely on government programs.
“The taxpayer costs we discovered were staggering,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education and co-author of the report said in a press statement. “People who work in fast-food jobs are paid so little that having to rely on public assistance is the rule, rather than the exception, even for those working 40 hours or more a week.”
Marc Doussard, one of the report’s co-authors and an assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said in the same press statement that the report also helps dispel the myth of fast-food workers as largely untrained teenagers.
“More than two-thirds of core frontline fast-food workers across the country are over the age of 20, and 68 percent are the main wage earners in their families,” Doussard said.
For New Yorkers in food serving and preparation occupations, the median annual wage is $19,690 in 2013, according to the State Department of Labor.
Nationally, 13 percent of the jobs for core front-line workers at fast-food restaurants provide health benefits.
“And more than a quarter of Americans working in fast-food restaurants are parents, raising at least one child,' said Doussard.
UC Berkeley economist Sylvia Allegretto, co-chair of the Center for Wage and Employment Dynamics said, “The cost is public because taxpayers bear it. Yet it remains hidden in national policy debates about poverty, employment and public spending.”
Editor Corey Fyke contributed to this report.