Minimum Wealth, part 6

Images are included for commentary and critique under Fair Use.

The third step to building wealth on minimum wage is “Eliminate your commute.” An equation estimating a 38 mile round trip commute and multiplying it by $0.51 (the IRS driving cost estimate) to get a product of a $19/day commute cost. The IRS standard mileage is used to calculate the tax deductible portion of driving a vehicle for work or charity, not the entire cost of owning a car. Places close enough not to drive to work cost more.

A 16 mile commute each way seemed high to me, especially for low wage work. A 2015 Metropolitan Policy Program of Bookings Institute report on the growing distance between people and jobs in US cities flagged Atlanta as having the highest average commute distance, with 12.8 miles as the average one-way trip. That’s 25.6 miles round trip. 

The MPP report used Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics data compiled in 2011. It’s reasonable to assume commute distances have grown, especially for poor people, but I’m not sure it’s reasonable to conclude they’ve gone up by 139% of Atlanta’s commute in all these cities, some of which are more concentrated and all of which are less populous. 

To “eliminate” your commute the graphic suggests selling your car, buying a used bike, and moving within biking distance of work. But gentrification has resulted in the wealthy and middle class flocking to urban cores, and pushing the inhabitants of the cities out to far flung neighborhoods and suburbs. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find low rent housing near any jobs, even minimum wage fast food work. 

The challenges, time, and physical energy spent doing the must ordinary and mundane tasks – like getting groceries home and dirty clothes to the laundromat – aren’t considered, and the extra Lyft rides to practically address such ordeals are ignored. The simple fact that minimum wage work is physically demanding did not give the folks at ZenInvestment a moment’s pause before recommending that literally every time you venture past your doorstep, you should deplete your energy.  

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