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Student Study Tells the Stories of Low-wage Workers in Santa Cruz County

diginity day worker

The research project features a website with stories and photos of low-wage workers across the county including this day laborer. (Photo by Edward Ramirez)

By Guy Lasnier, UCSC Newscenter

A year-long study by UC Santa Cruz students finds that low-wage workers in Santa Cruz County earn a median wage of about $10 an hour compared with the county median of $17.81, itself low compared with other parts of the state.

More data from the study and a website with personal stories from local residents who comprise the county’s low-wage workers will be released at a public event, “Working for Dignity,” set for 7-9 p.m. Thursday, May 7 at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz.

The findings are based on a student survey of 1,300 workers in service, farming, construction, and other low-wage industries around the county. Low wages combined with a high cost of living – caused primarily by rents – pushes 22 percent of county residents below the poverty line, according to the California Poverty Measure from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

The study by more than 100 UC Santa Cruz undergraduate researchers is “a census of the invisible,” said Steve McKay, associate professor of sociology and director of the UC Santa Cruz Center for Labor Studies, which conducted the research.

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