27 People on the Streets of New York Talk About How Much Money They Make
We asked nearly 400 people to tell us how much they earn. Here are two dozen who actually spoke to us.
By Julia Rothman and Shaina Feinberg
Julia is an illustrator. Shaina is a writer and filmmaker.
Jan. 13, 2023
Do your co-workers know how much money you earn? Do your friends? Does your family? Salary transparency is a hot topic — new laws have recently gone into effect around the country requiring employers to disclose salary ranges as a way to tackle pay inequities.
Curious how individuals feel about this movement toward transparency, we approached nearly 400 people on the sidewalks of New York late last year to see if anyone would tell us how much they make. A small fraction of the people we flagged down spoke to us. Here are 27 of them.
Alison Williams, operations coordinator:
Andreea Mincic, costume designer:
Alex Schwartz, lawyer:
Most people we approached completely ignored us.
When someone would stop, the conversations were often like therapy: People wrestled with the idea of sharing such personal information and struggled to understand why they were so reticent.
Kaela Maloney, recruiting coordinator:
Ted Held, account director:
“It feels like your salary is what you’re worth and you don’t want to be transparent because you’re like, ‘Oh, maybe I should be making $200,000 at my age.’ With friends, we share our salary requirements, like, ‘I need to make this much.’ But then we don’t share how much we make.”
Joan Sergay, theater director and audiobook director:
Parvathi Kumar, freelance photographer:
Celia Babini, musician:
In November, a law went into effect that requires New York City companies with at least four employees to disclose a salary range for any job listing. Similar laws have recently passed in California, Colorado and Washington State with the aim, according to their backers, of addressing pay gaps that largely hurt women and people of color.
In 2021, the median household income in New York City was $70,663 — roughly the same as in the rest of the country. But across the United States, women earned 83 percent of what men did that year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And Black and Hispanic women earned far less than their counterparts in other racial and ethnic groups.
Kevin Genao, train technician:
T.D. Hall, association management:
“Why would I want my salary to be a secret unless I want other people to not have the same job? I’m an American and a veteran, so I want to see other people live comfortably the same way that I live.”
We were hoping to find someone on the very high end of the earning spectrum, since we know this spectrum of New Yorkers exists, but sadly, no one would talk to us on the record. A woman in her 20s, who declined to give her name, told us she was a model and had at times made $1 million to $2 million per year.
A stockbroker dressed in a plaid suit with a floral pocket square was happy to talk … at first. He eagerly told us that he made $300,000 a year. But as we continued to speak, he became embarrassed that he didn’t make more. In the end, he withdrew his quotes.
Arya Zand, wealth management:
Aida Fogel, advertising strategist:
Darlene Vega, looking for work:
“A lot of Gen X and Boomers were still in the industry when I entered the work force, so it was hard for me to navigate salary because no one would talk about it. This is one of the positive things Gen Z has brought about. To be like, ‘Yeah, bro, I make 90,000 a year.’ And then to talk about it: ‘This is my degree and this is how many years I worked to get to this point.’”
Raymond Nuñez, security supervisor:
Marc Lafia, artist:
Michaelangelo Matos, musician, plus odd jobs: