As of 2018, 10.3% of Americans in families lived in poverty. But this national figure is only a very crude representation of the actual financial situation of families of different sizes and in different parts of the country.
Nationwide, two families could earn the same income every year, but depending on the state in which they live, one could live relatively comfortably, while the other could be struggling or relying on social assistance to afford a basic standard of living.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed cost of living estimates from financial think tank the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator. The estimates are of the costs needed for a family of two (two adults and no children) to lead a “modest yet adequate standard of living.” These costs include all of the basic necessities for a decent life, including housing, food, transportation, health care, and other necessities, as well as taxes. The income required varies from just under $43,000 in one state to over $66,000 in another. This is much higher than the Census Bureau’s official poverty threshold for a household with two people — $16,247.
It is important to note that this figure is meant to represent the cost a family unit with two adults and no children. For families with children, the EPI’s estimated annual family budget is tens of thousands of dollars higher in every state.
Not only do 10.3% of Americans in families fail to meet the much lower poverty threshold than the EPI’s cost estimate, but many live in even worse financial conditions. Nationwide, 3.7% of all families have incomes of less than $10,000. And in some states well more than 5% of families have such low incomes.
At a more local level, costs can be even higher, with the costs to meet a basic standard of living for a family of two in some metro areas exceeding $90,000, and for a family of four well above $130,000. While cities and counties with higher costs of living tend to be concentrated in states with generally higher costs of living, they can be found all across the country. These are the most expensive counties to raise a family, and this is what it costs to live in America’s most expensive cities.