Approximately 240 million 911 calls are made each year (1). Think about that for a minute- that’s roughly 657,534 calls to 911 every day. For many of the 657,534 people who called 911, it was the worst day of their lives. In 2016 (the last year of complete data available) alone, there were 17,250 Murders, 95,730 Rapes, 332,198 Robberies, and 803,007 Aggravated Assaults (2) in the United States.
Do you ever think about the person on the other end of the phone line when you call 911? That calm voice that answers when you are in desperate need of help, sends help your way, and stays with you till help arrives; what is that worth? Shouldn’t the person behind the first voice you hear on your worst day make a living wage? Did you know that in 47 states and D.C. the mean salary for a Dispatcher is less than the living wage in those states? For Dispatchers in 32 of those states it’s not even close.
The analysis of mean salaries for Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers revealed that in only four states it is more than the state’s living wage. Conversely, in 47 states and D.C. the mean salary for a Dispatcher is less than a living wage; in some states it is a lot less. To use MIT’s language, a Dispatcher making less than the living wage in their state is not being paid the minimum earnings necessary to meet their family’s basic needs.
This is especially important in families where only one spouse works. In these cases, the families need to find other sources of income or work as many overtime hours as possible to meet their family’s basic needs. In separate work, the BLS found that in 2016, among American married-couple families, both the husband and wife were employed in 48.0 percent of families; in 19.5 percent of married-couple families only the husband was employed, and in 7.1 percent only the wife was employed.
The four states where the mean salary is equal to or greater than a living wage are all on the west coast. The mean salary for a Dispatcher in California is $2,725 more than California’s living wage; in Nevada $5,212 more; in Washington $3,359 more, and in Oregon the mean salary is $2,810 more than the Oregon living wage.
The cost of living might help explain this because all four states are in the top 20 highest cost of living states. For the rest of the country it is difficult to use cost of living to help explain why the mean salary is less than a living wage. For example, Hawaii, D.C. Massachusetts, New York, Alaska, and eleven other states are all also in the top 20 cost of living states, yet the mean salary in none of them is a living wage. In 32 of the states, the mean salary is more than $10,000 less than a living wage.
The greatest difference between salary and living wage is found in Mississippi, where the mean Dispatcher salary is $20,534 less than Mississippi’s living wage. The state where the mean salary of a Dispatcher is closest to a living wage is Illinois at $1,714 less. Overall, Dispatcher mean salaries vary greatly from as low as $25,550 in Mississippi ($20,534 less than the living wage) to more than twice that in D.C. where the mean Dispatcher salary is $61,050; a much higher salary than in Mississippi but still $6,817 less than the D.C. living wage.
If working overtime is the only way for Dispatchers to reach that living wage, then Dispatchers in 47 states will have to do it. The number of overtime hours needed to make up the difference between mean salary and living wage varies from a low of only 41.5 hours a year; a little less than an hour a week to 1114.8 hours of overtime in Mississippi. Think about that for just a minute. That number equates to a Dispatcher in Mississippi who makes the mean salary working 61.5 hour weeks all 52 weeks of the year.
Click here for a table that displays the annual mean wage, hourly mean wage, state living wage, the difference between the annual mean wage and the living wage for all 50 states and Washington D.C. Note: Any Dispatcher making less than the amount in the State Living Wage column is not being paid a living wage.
Note: At the Ready realizes that Dispatchers work schedules differ according to their contract. Some work 8-hour shifts, some work 10-hour shifts, and some work 12-hour shifts, all according to their contract. Overtime also is worked and paid according to the contract.
|State||Annual Mean Wage||Hourly Mean Wage||State Living Wage||Living Wage +/-||Overtime Hours Needed|
Editor's Note: We used mean salary Data from BLS and the Living Wage data from MIT’s living wage model; if you'd like to scrutinize our methology, then please click here for an in-depth article detailing it.
About the Author
Mike Kennedy is a frequent contributor to At the Ready Magazine. He is a former Airborne Ranger Infantryman and after the Army spent fourteen years working for the U.S. Army Maneuver Battle as an Experimentation Manager, where he routinely worked with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Robotic Systems-Joint Project Office, Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center and numerous other government labs to develop and test new equipment and concepts designed to make Soldier’s lives better. At the Battle Lab, Mike managed and supervised the execution of experiments, data collection procedures, analysis of raw data and presentation of results in written form for Army decision makers. He personally planned, coordinated, and executed more than 80 unmanned systems experimentation events. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from American Military University. Mike’s professional training includes the Test and Evaluation Basic Course, Project Management, Scheduling and Cost Control, Advanced Techniques of Project Management, Fundamentals of Systems Acquisition Management, Capabilities Based Planning, Business Case Analysis, and the Army Capabilities Development Course.