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ICW Model Series: Stage 4 — Sustaining Economic Mobility (Pt. 2)



Kendall Square Site Director, Kristen Ouellette


In this series, ICW team members have been sharing their work with you in each stage of our programEarning Trust, Building Hope, Bridging Social Capital, and Sustaining Economic Mobility. Our final comes from our Kendall Square Site Director, Kristen.


Before we talk about economic mobility, let’s talk a little statistics! **I know, I know, but please stay with me. When looking at salary and household income statistics, it’s important to know what the average (mean) is and what the median is. The average is all known salaries added up and divided by the number of people. The median however is determined by laying out all of the salaries of all of the people from smallest to largest and then seeing what the MIDDLE value is.


In a group of people we’d expect some low incomes, some high, and a lot of incomes that are similar towards the middle. This is the classic “bell curve” you learn about in statistics and it’s the hallmark of a normal / even distribution of people on both sides of something, in this case, income. However, in Boston, the average salary is $80,000/year and the median (middle most) income is $45,000. In statistical speak, it appears that Boston may have a positive skew! Which in this case is not positive at all. It means that there are many more people with lower incomes and fewer with very high ones, making our bell curve look more like a ski slope. Concurrently, MA is seasonally in the top 5 in terms of highest cost of living and housing expenses, making it all the more challenging to get traction financially.


In a mathematical way, economic mobility could mean movement from one economic place to another by earning a higher or lower income. However, in a more real way economic mobility for students at ICW translates to having savings, moving to an apartment that feels good and is in a safer personal environment, having extra cash for Christmas and birthday gifts, having funds and connections to start a small business or considering home ownership for the first time.


Economic mobility is facilitated by students being able to earn a living that is greater than what they were earning on the streets and doesn’t include the same danger and inconsistency. At ICW we strive to have all voices be heard at all times. We take the bad as good because that means someone is comfortable enough to say how they feel and tell us what they need. Not everyone who comes through ICW becomes a personal trainer, in fact far more individuals find meaningful work in completely different spaces. However, our trainers are well on their way to achieving the incomes necessary to live in the Boston area, while working between 20–40 hours/week. And once someone is part of the ICW family, they’re always part of it and are encouraged to leverage us, our facility, staff, connections and any resources we have to keep moving forward.

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