Previous Editions of The Bruin's Eye » The U.S. Economy

The U.S. Economy


Our Economy in a Nutshell 

By: Christian Raya and Daisy Gasca 

    According to Glassdoor, an international career search website that helps individuals find jobs on the internet and helps companies post job openings to obtain skilled workers, the fast-food industry does pay, but not well. As their page states, the average McDonald's worker makes around $30,000 a year working around 40 hours, 5 days a week. But is this enough to live sustainably? Not according to Yahoo! Finance, a branch of the company Yahoo, that provides financial news and commentary about stocks, press releases, and financial reports. Yahoo! Finance finds that the average

salary here in California should be around $60,000.  

   So how does that stack up against what Greenfield families make? The U.S. Census Bureau reports that here in Greenfield, the median household income is around $73,000. When you look at the numbers, most high school students’ expectations of making six figures straight out of college are unrealistic. Plus buying a house is harder than ever in this economy and will most likely continue to get harder. For these reasons learning about the economy while in school is vital so students do not go into the real world without knowing how money and salaries work. 


Photo by Giorgio Trovato.

The Income to Live Sustainably

    Income is the money a person receives on a monthly or biweekly basis through the type of work they do. Many factors can affect someone’s income, which may be the type of job they get or how the current state of the economy looks like. SoFi, a banking website that helps consumers take care of their financial products like mortgages, personal loans, investing, and banking, analyzed the cost of living in our state in 2022, stating that a college graduate should expect roughly $59,000 annually starting. However, living with this salary is not considered comfortable by many people. Greenfield High School economics teacher, Mr. Sanchez tells The Bruin’s Eye, “In my opinion to live comfortably in CA one should hope to make around $80,000 starting.” However, the income he recommends is $80,000 more than what people realistically make as multiple sources in this article have already shown. Out of $58,862, just living and basic expenses take a lot out of this salary. 

economy infographic

    Consider if a Greenfield resident graduates from college and does get the highest estimated salary to start, around $59,000 annually. Since California is one of the most expensive states in the U.S. this salary diminishes quickly. For example, gas, housing and utility bills, food and groceries, healthcare, and personal expenses. SoFi estimates that gas costs the average person around $1,000 a year, leaving $58,000. Housing takes around another $10,000 out of the salary since the average housing and utilities bills are around $800 a month, leaving $48,000. According to SoFi, healthcare takes another $8,500 out of the salary, as costs are around $700 a month, leaving $39,500. Outside food and groceries and eating out can add up to around $3,800 a year for one person, leaving $35,700. If we estimate that the average person will incur other personal expenses throughout the year, adding up to around $2,000, then these costs of living annually add up to around $21,300 a year. This leaves only around $37,700 for the person making $59,000 a year to put into savings or use to purchase a car and that is before taxes! The tax rate for this average American will be 12%-22% in federal tax, for the California state income tax it would be around 9%. Meaning if we take 22% away from $59,000 it will be $12,980, ultimately this individual only makes around $46,000 after taxes. If we subtract the expenses mentioned before, they are left with $24,700, which is very little for working a year, with a bachelor's degree.  

    A person’s academic degree or job can also affect the type of income an individual makes. According to Edvoy’s online article, “Which Degrees Make the Most Millionaires?” most upper-income households around the world have individuals who majored in business, law, or some type of science, for example, computer science. Greenfield High sophomore, David Arias, informs our reporters that when he graduates from high school, he plans to major in psychology because of his salary. Arias explains “I would be expecting to make at least 100k or more after I graduate college." According to the hiring website, Zip Recruiter, the average salary of a psychology major is around 85k, slightly above Mr. Sanchez’s recommendation that Californians need to live pleasantly in the state. It’s important to understand that the type of major a student chooses to pursue in college will affect the whole life of a person. Graduate school student and Forensic Behavioral Science major, Melany Gasca, informs our reporters at The Bruin’s Eye, that she has high starting salary expectations due to the field she chose to study. Gasca elaborates: “From my major, I expect to make the least 70,000 right out of school if I can get a hold of a good job.” The goal of any adult is that the income from their chosen job will cover all the expenses that adulthood will bring. Living comfortably in California, the best majors to choose from are either science or business because they will secure a sustainable income for the future. 


Current Economy for Our State

Our current economy for California does not look decent as reported by the website Independent Institute, which reports everything an adult should care about like money, housing, healthcare, etc. A quick look onto Zillow, a web page where individuals who are hoping to purchase a house can look at different homes listed and compare prices between them, and the house history illustrates to residents that housing in even an agricultural town like Greenfield is around 500,000. We are not even talking about how bad it is in places like Sacramento or Los Angeles where a house can cost upwards of 800,000, as shown by Zillow. With the minimum wage being brought up from 15.50 to 20 dollars an hour in April, we can see overall prices going up. To put it into perspective there is no longer a dollar menu at McDonald's. The last time a McChicken cost a dollar was in 2018. In 2024 McChicken is now 2.69 which represents an overall increase of 62% increase in 6 years.  

    Individuals' incomes have seen an almost 50% increase from the year 1970 to 2018 in just middle-class households while upper-income households increased by 64% within those years stated to the Pew Research Center. The economy has a huge effect on the incomes of people. When the economy is considered more stable and intact, people have more opportunities to acquire jobs or request a higher wage without risking rejection. Why? Because employers in the U.S. can afford to pay better when they have more money. Whenever the economy changes, lower-income households are most affected because they have jobs that can easily be replaced or given a raise, according to the Pew Research Center. Economics teacher, Mr. Sanchez, tells reporters from The Bruin’s Eye, “When the economy is growing and unemployment is low, there's often more demand for workers, which can lead to higher wages. On the flip side, during economic downturns like the one we just skated by, employers might face challenges, potentially affecting salaries through freezes or layoffs.”. Since Mr. Sanchez is a teacher of economics, it is well worth listening to the information he has on how the economy can affect our incomes whether it is stable or not. 

Economy Taught in Schools and the Effects on Students 

    The curriculum of economics taught in high school whether AP or regular is the same. As it mostly delves into graphs and charts, and mostly theoretical concepts. From my personal experience (Christian Raya) I thought economics was going to explain for example why inflation happens, is it good is it bad, and go further than just theory. It only explains what is in the theory but not why it happens. According to Greenfield High School Alumni and current Sacramento State finance major, Sebastian Raya, he states, “The knowledge of economics taught in high school is at a very basic level even in AP classes as it only introduces introductory theories, and not a lot that is practical in the real world. College-taught classes dive deeper into real-world analysis and how that analysis is applied in different scenarios” Even in college most that is taught is just theory, however, that is what economics is. Theory can only take everything so far as in the curriculum, there should be a balance between theory and real-world practical scenarios. 

    Students learning about economics are just learning theories, which makes them unprepared for the real world and have a rough estimate of how the real world works. Econ teaches theoretical concepts and how “IF” humans were to think on a logical and rational basis. According to a financial student, Sebastian Raya, “It leads to students being unprepared very little connection to real-world issues in high school, due to the way the curriculum is set up to only be taught at a basic level and deeper analysis isn't taught and once a student enters college they are expected to already know a lot of the basic theories”  The teaching of economics in schools needs to be improved ever so slightly to incorporate scenarios and in a practical sense of how the world works. Students need to be better prepared in the world of economics and not necessarily change the curriculum but include more information. Even though in Greenfield High School Microeconomics is only one semester there should be a little bit of both real-world scenarios that are taught in college for AP students, since it is an advanced placement class, or for both types of classes.