In 1936, Edna Clark Wentworth and Frederick Simplich Jr. studied the living standards of 101 Filipino families on a sugar plantation.
The average family received an annual income of $682.81 which included the earnings of all family members. More than half of the families, 57%, ended the year with an average deficit of $85. Less than half of the families, 43%, ended the year with an average surplus of $99 a year. The average deficit of all families was $8.35 for the year.
By 1939, wages had increased only slightly. The average sugar worker earned about 27 cents an hour, or $587 a year. Most of the plantation families had to spend 50% of their income for food and the larger families were “apt to suffer from malnutrition,” noted James Shoemaker in the 1939 Bureau of Labor Statistics Report on Hawaii.