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27 People on the Streets of New York Talk About How Much Money They Make

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We asked about 400 people to tell us how much they earned. Here are two dozen that really spoke to us.

Julia Rothman and

Julia is an illustrator. Shaina is a writer and filmmaker.

Do your co-workers know how much you earn? Your friends? Your family? Pay transparency is an important topic – new laws have recently come into effect across the country, requiring employers to disclose pay ranges as a way to combat pay inequalities.

Curious to know how people feel about this movement toward transparency, we reached out to about 400 people on the sidewalks of New York late last year to see if anyone would tell us how much they earn. A small fraction of the people we flagged spoke to us. Here are 27 of them.

Alison Williams, operations coordinator:

“How much do I earn? Insufficient! But it’s no wonder I love my job, even if I’m underpaid.”

Andreea Mincic, costume designer:

“I made a lot of money from unemployment during Covid. And now I’m back to $27,000 a year. I wish I didn’t struggle so much. I would like to receive more for my worth.”

Alex Schwartz, attorney:

“I work in big law, so it’s pretty standard in all big companies, that’s why I told you.”

Most of the people we approached completely ignored us.

When someone did stop, the conversations were often like therapy: People struggled with the idea of ​​sharing this personal information and struggled to understand why they were so reticent.

Kaela Maloney, Recruitment Coordinator:

“I just finished working my two weeks today and got a new job!” (The new job is as an executive assistant. It pays more.)

Ted Held, Director of Accounts:

“I’m taking a break because I don’t think I would ever want to tell anyone exactly what I earn. My parents taught me not to talk openly about money.”

Joan Sergay, theater director and audiobook director:

“The job market now looks different than our parents’ generation. My father worked in one place for 30 years. When you’re jumping from job to job, it can be harder to understand what the norm is.”

Parvathi Kumar, freelance photographer:

“In India, if you work in a company, everyone knows each other’s salaries. It’s just normal. If you’re doing the same job and someone else is earning more, it’s worth knowing. And I think people talk about it with the boss.”

Celia Babini, musician:

“Financial literacy is something that a lot of people don’t have. And that’s how the wealth gap widens. People really don’t know how to ask for the right amount of money because it’s taboo.”

In November, a law went into effect that requires New York City companies with at least four employees to post a salary range to any job listing. Similar laws have recently been passed in California, Colorado and Washington states with the aim, according to their advocates, to address the gender pay gap that largely disadvantages women and people of color.

In 2021, the median household income in New York City was $70,663 – about the same as in the rest of the country. But in the United States, women earned 83% of what men earned that year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And Black and Hispanic women earned far less than their counterparts in other racial and ethnic groups.

Kevin Genao, train technician:

“I am a fully unionized railway worker. I belong to the International Brotherhood of Electricians. Everyone who works there earns the same for that specific job. When you become a supervisor or foreman, you earn more.”

TD Hall, Association Administration:

“We’re in a time where the gap between the rich and everyone else is widening, and there’s this desire to understand the pay structure. Women are paid much less, people of color are paid even less… and if you are a woman of color – even less.

“I won’t tell you how much I earn because not everyone lives in a community where you can be in the media talking about how much you earn and go home safely at night.”

We were hoping to find someone at the top end of the earning spectrum, as we know that spectrum of New Yorkers exist, but unfortunately, no one officially wanted to talk to us. A woman in her 20s, who declined to give her name, told us that she was a model and that she sometimes makes $1 million to $2 million a year.

A stockbroker dressed in a plaid suit with a floral pocket square was happy to chat…at first. He eagerly told us that he made $300,000 a year. But as we continued to talk, he was embarrassed that he hadn’t done more. In the end, he withdrew his quotes.

Arya Zand, wealth management:

“I got married during Covid and decided to take control of my future so I became self-employed in 2022. It’s much safer to work a 9 to 5. But I decided I needed to work at my own pace and ambition.”

Aida Fogel, advertising strategist:

“Women often wait for the employer to come up with a number and don’t negotiate after that. I negotiated. I asked for more and was surprised to see that they were willing to give me what I wanted.”

Darlene Vega, looking for work:

“I was taught that you weren’t allowed to ask about salary. So, if and when you get the job, you might want to ask about the salary. You might be disappointed, but you’re so happy to have a job that you can’t complain.”

Raymond Nuñez, security supervisor:

“I think it’s great that they passed this law because when you’re looking for a job, you can choose the type of job that offers the most money. And you have to go where the money is!”

Marc Lafia, artist:

“I don’t think anyone in New York can live on less than $100,000. I live well because my wife works and I earned money when I was younger. New York does not support its artists. This whole street is about rent – money, money, money! I spend more than I earn. I’m a losing proposition! But I keep doing it.”

Michaelangelo Matos, musician, more odd jobs:

“Who cares what we do and what we don’t do? What matters when we’re in the dirt? I’m trying to be as happy as possible.”

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