A wage survey from the Kansas Department of Labor this week shows some interesting things about Manhattan.

The most striking, of course is wages here lag behind the state average. Median pay for workers in Manhattan is just shy of $32,000 annually. That’s an increase of almost 3% from the year before, which is great, but it’s still about $4,000 below the average for the whole state.

There’s good reason to think that the main reason for the difference is the composition of our community: We have about 20,000 college students, so a good chunk of our city’s population is young people, who are working part time or in entry-level positions. We wouldn’t expect them, in general, to be making as much as older folks in the work force.

Another effect of having a university in town is that there is a constant supply of educated workers, especially recent graduates. Sometimes that means employers don’t have to offer pay that is as competitive as it would have to be in other cities.

The numbers for Lawrence seem to bear that out. The median pay for workers there is $32,673, which is ahead of Manhattan but still well below the state average.

Though we can attribute some of the wage gap to students and a young population, we’d like to see progress in that area.

For one thing, the costs of living in Manhattan and in Lawrence are among the highest in the state, so it’s not good if our wages are considerably lower. For another, we think higher wages are a good indicator of the vitality of a city’s economy and the quality of the jobs there.

We hope the city government will do what it can to bring quality employers to Manhattan, and that local employers will try to keep compensation high to attract the best workers and give them a good quality of life.

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