A look at how high gas prices are hurting workers and what to do about it.
Back in February, when US gas prices were around $3.50, most Americans said they’d change their driving habits or lifestyle if gas hit $4. It now costs just under $5 on average.
In the short term, high gas prices have meant that some people have become more conscientious about how often they drive. But for those who have to drive for work, either as a commute or as part of their job — like health care workers, farmers, tradespeople, and Uber and Lyft drivers — there’s less wiggle room. For them, sustained high gas prices have long-reaching repercussions that affect their take-home pay, where they live, and if they’ll be able to perform their jobs at all.
“If they’re required to drive as a condition of their livelihood, they’re stuck,” Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School, told Recode. For those people, increased gas costs will come out of their discretionary income, the same way clothing and trips do. If they are low-income and had limited extra money to begin with, that can mean much harder choices about food, housing, and debt.
People who live paycheck to paycheck “are definitely seeing this have an enormous effect on what’s left in their wallet,” Cohen said.
In May of this year, the average transaction price at gas stations was up 34 percent from May 2019, according to Earnest Research, a company that analyzes anonymized US credit and debit card data. And those charges are taking up a larger share of people’s spending in the US.
For now, the bad news is that there’s not much the government can do to adjust gas prices since they’re due to large global events outside government control. When the pandemic in 2020 began causing travel of all kinds to grind to a halt and demand for gas plummeted as a result, oil...