Study: Poverty Wages at BWI Create Hidden Taxpayer Costs

May 30, 2015


Washington, DC, November 7, 2011 — Many workers providing food and retail service at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) are paid so little that they and their families depend on Medicaid, the Maryland Children’s Health Program, and food stamps, according to a study released today.

The study, entitled “Behind the Counter at BWI: Engine of Development or Pocket of Poverty?” was issued today by Good Jobs First at


“Maryland taxpayers have already paid enormous sums to build, maintain and operate the state’s largest airport,” said Greg LeRoy, the report’s author and Good Jobs First’s director. “But hundreds of workers there remain mired in poverty wages and scant benefits that force them and their families to depend on social safety-net programs, creating hidden taxpayer costs.”

The study is based upon a survey of 175 non-union, non-supervisory food and retail workers at BWI. It finds that:

  • Typical pay is just $8.50 an hour for 36 hours per week—or just $15,912 a year—below the federal poverty line for a small family and far below a more realistic bare-subsistence budget published by Wider Opportunities for Women.
  • Almost two in five workers have no health insurance coverage at all, and of those with coverage, two in five depend on Maryland Medicaid.
  • Although seven-eighths of those workers with children report having them covered, almost two-thirds of those are dependent upon the Maryland Children’s Health Program (MCHP). (Both Medicaid and MCHP are state-administered and funded with federal and state dollars.)
  • More than one-sixth receive food stamps at an average rate of $300 per month.