Business & Economy

High-wage, low-polluting jobs are rare in LA County, report says

Overall, the report finds Los Angeles has not made progress towards state or national emissions reduction targets.
Overall, the report finds Los Angeles has not made progress towards state or national emissions reduction targets.
Photo by Jennifer Coffey via Flickr Creative Commons

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Jobs in Los Angeles County that are high paying are often bad for the environment, and occupations with a low carbon footprint tend to have low wages, according to a new study from L.A.'s Economic Roundtable, which was sponsored by the California Energy Commission.

Careers in law, accounting and film production are both high-paying and good for the environment, but those jobs require a higher skill set, which most L.A. County residents don't qualify for, according to the report.

The other sector that pays well with a low carbon footprint is durable manufacturing, which includes the aerospace industry. Work in that sector typically does not require a college degree.

“But that’s a comparatively small sector, and it’s struggling to hang on to its foothold,” says the report’s co-author, Daniel Flaming. 

Many more people work in food service, but those jobs tend to pay poorly – an average of $18,000 dollars a year – and restaurants have a high carbon footprint.

“Between what happens in the kitchen and all the customer trips you end up releasing a lot of greenhouse gases into the air,” said Flaming.

Overall, the report finds Los Angeles has not made progress toward state or national emissions reduction targets. Governor Jerry Brown recently moved up California's target, setting a goal of reducing emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels over the next 15 years.

To help meet the targets, Flaming says local governments should prioritize businesses that have low carbon footprints when they make land use decisions. He says raising the minimum wage would help on the wage side.

Here are the worst and best jobs to have, based upon emissions and wages, according to the report:

Low Wage, High Emission Industries (Average annual wages and greenhouse gas emissions per job)

High Wage, Low Emission Industries (Average annual wages and greenhouse gas emissions per job)