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Wages in MN Rise for the Richest, Fall for the Poor

PHOTO: The Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership is one resource for Minnesotans who used to be "middle-income," but have found themselves struggling financially. Courtesy Mahube-Otwa CAP.
December 12. 2012
PHOTO: The Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership is one resource for Minnesotans who used to be "middle-income," but have found themselves struggling financially. Courtesy Mahube-Otwa CAP.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - It's being called a “lost decade” for low- and middle-income Minnesotans.

From the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, the richest people in the state saw their average wages grow, while those in the middle and at the bottom saw their paychecks get smaller. At the same time, it's become a challenge for many to simply cover the basics, according to Leah Pigatti, executive director of the Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership in Detroit Lakes.

"Think about what groceries cost every week, putting gas in your car now; if you have children that need child care, health insurance. No, it doesn't take much to knock you off."

Many of those the partnership now serves, Pigatti says, used to be in the middle class - but saw their hours cut or lost jobs altogether during the recession.

"It's so gratifying that we're here and we're available to help individuals in a very non-judgmental way - because I always think, but for the grace of God, any one of us could walk in the same path."

One of the greatest needs right now, she says, is transportation, particularly in Greater Minnesota.

"We don't have any type of public transit system that has, like an urban area would have - where you can hop on the bus every 15 minutes or something like that. That's a tremendous need in rural areas."

Pigatti says the other vital need for those trying to climb back into a more secure financial situation is affordable housing.

The average income for the bottom fifth of households in Minnesota is slightly more than $24,000 a year, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The average wage for the richest 5 percent, the analysis says, is 11 times larger, at more than $250,000.

More information is online at mahube.org. The report is at cbpp.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN