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PunditFact: One-third of bank tellers get public assistance

The statement

"One-third of all bank tellers (are) on public assistance."

James Carville, Democratic strategist, on ABC's This Week

The ruling

Carville cited a source in his comments, a study by the University of California-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. A New York City group, the Committee for Better Banks, commissioned the analysis. The committee says it represents the interests of frontline and back office bank workers.

"Salaries for bank tellers nationwide are so low that 31 percent of bank tellers and their family members are enrolled in some type of public assistance program," the committee cites in its report.

That public assistance takes many forms. The grand total is nearly $900 million, with Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program accounting for more than half. Food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) make up the remainder.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country had 560,000 tellers in 2010. The median wage was about $11.55 an hour, or $24,100 a year. About three-fourths of these people worked full time.

In contrast, the median pay for a bank CEO was more than $550,000 last year, and industry profits exceeded $140 billion.

Carville pretty accurately quoted the report, except in one respect that doesn't make an enormous difference. He said one-third of bank tellers are on public assistance. The report actually spoke of bank tellers and their family members. That would include a worker's child who gets health care through the Children's Health Insurance Program. But since that child is eligible because the family makes less than a certain amount, we think it's a minor point.

The Berkeley Center recently did a similar analysis of fast-food workers. When PunditFact looked into claims based on that report, we found that there was some disagreement among experts as to whether children's insurance and the Earned Income Tax Credit should be counted as public assistance because these programs help families making as much as $50,000 a year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10 percent of bank tellers make more than about $32,000 a year. The government might have designed these programs to help somewhat more comfortable working families, but that doesn't change the fact that the majority of bank tellers have very modest household incomes.

We rate the claim Mostly True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PunditFact.com.

PunditFact: One-third of bank tellers get public assistance 12/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 3:44pm]
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