I’ve been living in Los Angeles for almost four years. You could almost say I’m an honorary Angeleno now.
LA is such a melting pot: racially, socially, and economically. People come from everywhere to make it their home. One of the first things I noticed about living here was just how expensive everything is, from rent to parking, to simple items at the grocery store. I think living in this kind of economy makes me work a lot more - and work a lot harder.
People who don’t live here see that the minimum wage is very high and automatically think there's a ton of money being made in this city, and to some degree that's true. But I think for the average person like me, the high minimum wage doesn’t really matter when you take into account the
. It can be difficult to survive. It can be difficult for middle-class families to buy a first home or a car. The resources are all here, the jobs are all here, but I think more often than not, people are working multiple jobs just to live from paycheck to paycheck, a reality affecting millions of Americans.
I’m not too sure what the economic stereotype of LA is. I think there’s a façade that people try to keep up; a pressure to fit in with the glitz and glamour the city offers. People lease cars they can’t afford while living in a shoebox; eat out at the finest restaurants, when a Taco Bell would do; and maintain an image of wealth, when that’s not really the world they live in.
I have friends with really great careers and, from the outside, it looks like they have it all. But the truth is, they still live with roommates in order to share the cost of the rent, or they can't afford to run a car in a city famous for its reliance on them. It’s not that these are bad things. On the contrary, it’s a good way to lower expenses and save money, but really, what other choice do they have living here? It’s hard to get by on your own. And when people get a taste of a decent sized salary, they tend to live beyond their means, which creates a pressure all of its own.
That said, living in this kind of economy is possible. If anything, it brings out the go-getter in you - the instinct to survive. Do I wish it were easier? Sometimes, yes. I certainly wish it wasn't so expensive to rent in my neighborhood (especially given the high crime rates in the surrounding areas).
But I think the majority of people who come here have very clear goals, so they tend to have a good attitude about doing whatever they need to do to survive. There are so many jobs here; there’s always a way to make a living somehow. As I said, LA creates hard working people.
We’ll be featuring different cities regularly. Next week’s ‘My City’ features Sara Zayto on her hometown of Detroit.
We’d love to hear from you what it’s like to be part of the economy of your city. Get in touch with your perspective at firstname.lastname@example.org