Report: Family budget calculator measures US cost of living
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
All U.S. residents have skin in this game. Just ask Elise Gould, Zane Mokhiber and Kathleen Bryant at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a think tank based in Washington, D.C. The EPI just updated its Family Budget Calculator to reveal what families require to meet their living costs in all 3,142 counties and 611 metro areas across the nation.
According to the EPI researchers, their report provides more comprehensive economic data than the federal poverty line and the Supplemental Poverty Measure. The key takeaway: Minimum wage is not a livable wage.
While the EPI data adjusts for increased city and state minimum wages, "there is nowhere in the country where a minimum-wage worker — even a single adult without children — earns enough to meet the requirements of their local family budget," according to Gould, Mokhiber and Bryant.
In the report, there are 10 budgets for varied family types. They range in composition and size from one parent and one child to two parents and four children.
"Families with one child are assumed to have a 4-year-old," according to the EPI report. "Families with two children are assumed to have a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old. Families with three children are assumed to have a 4-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old. Families with four children are assumed to have a 4-year-old, an 8-year-old, a 12-year-old, and a 16-year-old."
For a two-parent, two-child family in Washington, D.C., "it costs $10,331 per month ($123,975 per year) to secure a decent yet modest standard of living." That cost of living for the same family in the New Orleans/Metairie metro area requires monthly costs of $6,351, or an annual total of $76,213. In Northern California's Tehama County (one of 58 in the U.S.'s most populous state), the monthly living costs for a similar family are $6,153, with an annual expenditure of $73,830.
The EPI report has the following categories of living costs: housing, food, childcare, transportation, healthcare, other necessities and taxes. Rental cost data is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's fiscal year 2018 fair market rents. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion provides the report's data on food costs.
The EPI report uses state-level data from Child Care Aware of America 2017 publication Parents and the High Cost of Child Care. There are five types of such care. The categories include center-based care; family childcare; infant care; 4-year-old care and school-age childcare.
For transportation costs, the Center for Neighborhood Technology provided data to the EPI based to account for the 10 family sizes in the Family Budget Calculator. There are two components to healthcare costs expenses: the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Premium costs come from The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2017 Health Insurance Marketplace Calculator, plus U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data.
The Family Budget Calculator derives "other necessities" from Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey data). "Other necessities" for comfortable living include apparel, personal care, household supplies (furnishings and equipment, household operations, housekeeping supplies, and telephone services), reading materials and school supplies.
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