By Alan Pyke
“Bank teller” may sound like a profession that would allow a person to pay all her bills and live a decently middle-class life, but that’s not the case. Three in ten bank tellers rely upon some type of anti-poverty public assistance program, such as Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, or food stamps, according to a new report from the Committee for Better Banks.
The report pulls from research by the University of California Berkeley’s Labor Center to illustrate the disparities within the banking industry between executives and retail-level worker bees. According to the report, “salaries for bank tellers nationwide are so low that 31% of bank tellers and their family members are enrolled in some type of public assistance program.” In New York City, where the cost of living is far higher than the national average, 39 percent of full-time tellers need public programs to get by.
Bank tellers’ reliance on public programs costs taxpayers $889 million annually. Given that the banking industry’s high profits — which have already returned to record levels just five years after the financial collapse — owe in part to its low labor costs for people like bank tellers, this means that taxpayers are effectively subsidizing bank profits to the tune of nearly $900 million per year.