Orlando has lowest median income of top 50 cities due to tourist service economy

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Many theme park workers belong to a growing class of working poor in Orlando, which has the lowest median pay among the 50 most-populous American metropolitan areas, according to U.S. Labor Department data. Three of the city’s largest employers, including Walt Disney Co., increased starting pay this year. Even after Disney raised its minimum wage to $10 per hour, many still live below the federal poverty line.

Read more from Bloomberg.

Jeff's avatar

I'm trying to do that math... The 30% mark of income on $25k/year is about $650 per month. Assuming two working parents at the same wage, that's $1,300 per month. A quick look at rent around Kissimmee, for example, is between $650 and $800. If I were to budget out the rest of my net pay, I wouldn't live fat, but I wouldn't be starving.

The hard thing about these articles is that they always insert that bit of snark about how much people spend on the product vs. how much trickles down to the workers. That line of thinking always makes me uncomfortable because it implies something immoral is happening, and I don't see it.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

You sort of got to what my first question was: isn't the cost of living in the Orlando area pretty reasonable? Therefore, the wages are meeting up with the market? Given the transient nature of front-line workers in the amusement industry, I would imagine that a glut of workers with less than a year of time in their job brings that median income down. As some workers stay in their jobs longer and are rewarded with increases, their numbers also thin out and continue to bring that median income down.

Jeff's avatar

I definitely sense a cultural divide, but it's hard to put my finger on it. Cost of living is pretty average, I think. Because there's no income tax, state or local, I think some of the tax burden shifts to property tax, but that $650-800 range for apartments and townhouses doesn't seem out of line to me. I can't speak to the attitudes of people working in hotels and restaurants on I-Drive, but if front line Disney people are unhappy about what they do, you'd never know it. It's almost freakish how willing people are to blow pixie dust up your ass.

The article says that 20% of the population is working tourism kinds of jobs, which frankly seems low, but I gotta think that includes all of the people working office jobs, too. Literally every third house on my street has someone working at a theme park company in professional jobs.

But regardless, if two adults with two kids make $50k combined, I can't imagine you'd be living in poverty. I could get by on that with my wife and kid with a mortgage and car payment, though admittedly, I wouldn't be able to save a dime, have theme park passes or take any real vacations. Heck, I have professional single friends who do make that much and they're good. If I had to sell my house and live in one of those $800 apartments, then it would be easy and I could do some of those things on $50k.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

I am always amazed at the level of service that pretty much everyone at Disney provides. I agree that if they are unhappy with their pay they certainly do not let you know that. Though are the front line people making more than those who are behind the scenes?

Federal poverty guidelines for 2014 has the cutoff for a household of 4 at $23,850. Family of 4 making $50,000 would be more than twice that level. Household of 10 would be just above the federal poverty limits with that income.


Doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to have federal poverty limits because of variances in costs of living. Even in the same state the same amount of income will buy more in certain areas than others.

$10 per hour x 40 hours = $400 per week

$400 per week x 52 weeks = $20,800 per year. NOT $25,000 per year.

$25,000 per year divided by 52 weeks = $480.77 per week

$480.77 per week divided by 40 hours = $12.01 per hour

This Isn't A Hospital--It's An Insane Asylum!

Um, did someone say that $10/hour=25k/year?

LostKause's avatar

I relate to this article... I worked at IOA for a year, ending in November of 2001. I made $6.65 an hour. I wanted desperately to make a living working at an Orlando theme park. Competition for promotions was fierce. It was hell, to say the least, and I had to move back to PA to be near my family.

These park rely on their employees to run the park, but they need to realize that the employees also rely on them to help them earn a living. I thought living in Orlando was very expensive.

Jeff's avatar

But they don't have to realize that. You said it yourself... people are battling for promotions. It's a buyer's market for hiring.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

LostKause's avatar

Heavy editing of my last post made it seem that I was saying that the competition was hell. I meant that living in Orlando without any money was hell because it is expensive. Getting a promotion is tough everywhere. You make a good point though.

TTD-120-420's avatar

I'm doing the College Program right now and we just got a raise this week to $9.10/hour. We are getting paid the same as most of the other workers, but we are guaranteed 35 hours a week. I know people who are part time that get a whopping 6 hours a week.

Jeff's avatar

If someone has the expectation of living on 6 hours per week, they're doing life wrong.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

slithernoggin's avatar

Until they changed the rules a few years back, my roommate was able to keep many of the perks of being a Disney employee -- free entry to the parks, discounts on merchandise -- while working literally one or two days a year. (He would work character breakfasts, usually as Pluto or Goofy, and complain about the terrible workload (breaks between every set) on that one day of work....)

Some of those folks working very few hours a week may be doing so for the same reason.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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