The Income a Family Really Needs to Avoid Poverty in Every State

December 2, 2019 by Mike Sauter

Source: John Moore / Getty Images

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.

Click here to see The Income a Family Really Needs to Avoid Poverty in Every State
Click here to read our methodology

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Alabama
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,005 (19th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,476 (10th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,885 (25th lowest)
> Median family income: $63,837 (7th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 5.1% (6th highest)

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Alaska
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $64,342 (2nd highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,826 (10th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,373 (3rd lowest)
> Median family income: $89,847 (7th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.9% (21st lowest)

Arizona
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $52,069 (16th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,115 (25th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,652 (17th lowest)
> Median family income: $69,981 (16th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.9% (17th highest)

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Arkansas
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $42,991 (the lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $6,751 (the lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,479 (9th lowest)
> Median family income: $58,080 (3rd lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.4% (10th highest)

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California
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $59,349 (4th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $15,474 (2nd highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,359 (7th highest)
> Median family income: $86,165 (13th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.4% (24th highest)

Colorado
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $54,205 (12th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,919 (9th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,109 (16th highest)
> Median family income: $88,955 (9th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.6% (10th lowest)

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Connecticut
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $57,696 (6th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $13,135 (7th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,375 (6th highest)
> Median family income: $98,100 (4th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.6% (10th lowest)

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Delaware
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $54,345 (11th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $10,697 (16th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,116 (15th highest)
> Median family income: $79,386 (19th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.0% (22nd lowest)

Source: TerryJ / Getty Images

Florida
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $49,914 (24th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $10,594 (17th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,253 (11th highest)
> Median family income: $66,995 (12th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.8% (18th highest)

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Source: Barry Williams / Getty Images

Georgia
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $50,437 (22nd highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,369 (22nd highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,786 (22nd lowest)
> Median family income: $71,457 (18th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.5% (8th highest)

Hawaii
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $66,352 (the highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $15,926 (the highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $8,458 (the highest)
> Median family income: $95,448 (5th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.7% (13th lowest)

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Idaho
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $46,179 (9th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,413 (7th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,889 (25th highest)
> Median family income: $65,987 (11th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.8% (18th lowest)

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Illinois
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $51,039 (19th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $10,564 (18th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,506 (11th lowest)
> Median family income: $81,313 (17th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.3% (25th highest)

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Indiana
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $44,878 (5th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,771 (14th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,266 (the lowest)
> Median family income: $70,150 (17th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.8% (18th highest)

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Iowa
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $46,541 (11th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,196 (5th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,399 (5th lowest)
> Median family income: $76,068 (24th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.7% (13th lowest)

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Kansas
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $47,280 (15th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,724 (13th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,750 (21st lowest)
> Median family income: $74,042 (25th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.8% (18th lowest)

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Kentucky
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $43,661 (4th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $6,986 (2nd lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,375 (4th lowest)
> Median family income: $62,228 (6th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 5.5% (5th highest)

Louisiana
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,181 (20th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,487 (24th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,717 (20th lowest)
> Median family income: $61,847 (5th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 5.6% (3rd highest)

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Maine
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $52,710 (15th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,748 (19th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,698 (3rd highest)
> Median family income: $72,390 (24th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.1% (23rd lowest)

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Maryland
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $56,552 (7th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $14,304 (4th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,127 (14th highest)
> Median family income: $101,437 (2nd highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.5% (7th lowest)

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Massachusetts
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $55,734 (10th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $13,579 (6th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,498 (4th highest)
> Median family income: $101,548 (the highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.7% (13th lowest)

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Michigan
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $45,145 (6th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,170 (21st lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,548 (13th lowest)
> Median family income: $72,036 (22nd lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.0% (13th highest)

Source: Jacob Boomsma / Getty Images

Minnesota
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $51,051 (18th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,201 (24th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,913 (22nd highest)
> Median family income: $89,039 (8th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.1% (the lowest)

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Mississippi
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $46,141 (8th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,464 (9th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,871 (24th lowest)
> Median family income: $57,380 (the lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 6.5% (the highest)

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Missouri
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $46,603 (12th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,563 (11th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,501 (10th lowest)
> Median family income: $69,188 (15th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.5% (20th highest)

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Montana
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $49,867 (25th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,836 (15th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,827 (23rd lowest)
> Median family income: $68,940 (14th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.9% (21st lowest)

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Nebraska
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $49,254 (24th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,651 (12th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,546 (12th lowest)
> Median family income: $75,990 (25th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.5% (7th lowest)

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Nevada
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $45,891 (7th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,237 (23rd highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,941 (20th highest)
> Median family income: $71,864 (19th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.5% (20th highest)

Source: ChrisBoswell / Getty Images

New Hampshire
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $50,717 (21st highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,177 (12th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,329 (8th highest)
> Median family income: $93,930 (6th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.2% (2nd lowest)

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New Jersey
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $56,496 (8th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $14,076 (5th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,293 (9th highest)
> Median family income: $101,404 (3rd highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.8% (18th lowest)

New Mexico
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $43,372 (3rd lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,067 (20th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,651 (16th lowest)
> Median family income: $58,760 (4th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 6.4% (2nd highest)

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New York
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $59,420 (3rd highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $15,062 (3rd highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,488 (5th highest)
> Median family income: $83,311 (15th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.0% (13th highest)

North Carolina
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $52,857 (14th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,417 (22nd lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,688 (19th lowest)
> Median family income: $67,816 (13th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.0% (13th highest)

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North Dakota
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $46,439 (10th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,977 (17th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,923 (21st highest)
> Median family income: $86,205 (12th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.4% (4th lowest)

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Source: Ron Reiring / Wikimedia Commons

Ohio
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $43,359 (2nd lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,409 (6th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,473 (8th lowest)
> Median family income: $72,028 (21st lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.0% (13th highest)

Source: Jeffrey Beall / Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,265 (21st lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,453 (8th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,672 (18th lowest)
> Median family income: $64,082 (8th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.6% (7th highest)

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Oregon
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $52,949 (13th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $10,746 (15th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,012 (18th highest)
> Median family income: $77,655 (21st highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.2% (24th lowest)

Pennsylvania
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $50,409 (23rd highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,559 (21st highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,909 (23rd highest)
> Median family income: $77,491 (22nd highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.5% (20th highest)

Source: danlogan / Getty Images

Rhode Island
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,983 (23rd lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $10,887 (14th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,259 (10th highest)
> Median family income: $84,212 (14th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.5% (20th highest)

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South Carolina
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $49,466 (25th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,442 (23rd lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,647 (15th lowest)
> Median family income: $65,742 (10th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.3% (11th highest)

Source: Jacob Boomsma / Getty Images

South Dakota
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $47,393 (17th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,057 (3rd lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,965 (19th highest)
> Median family income: $72,183 (23rd lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.3% (25th highest)

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Tennessee
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $47,398 (18th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,927 (16th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,892 (24th highest)
> Median family income: $65,656 (9th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.5% (8th highest)

Source: theresajam1 / Getty Images

Texas
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $46,717 (13th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,649 (20th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,311 (2nd lowest)
> Median family income: $71,868 (20th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.2% (12th highest)

Utah
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $47,333 (16th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,899 (25th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,585 (14th lowest)
> Median family income: $81,599 (16th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.3% (3rd lowest)

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Source: John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

Vermont
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $58,372 (5th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $10,941 (13th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $7,031 (2nd highest)
> Median family income: $80,452 (18th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.9% (21st lowest)

Source: cbell7153 / Getty Images

Virginia
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $55,993 (9th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $12,865 (8th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,186 (12th highest)
> Median family income: $88,929 (10th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.8% (18th lowest)

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Washington
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $50,797 (20th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,632 (11th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,167 (13th highest)
> Median family income: $87,652 (11th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.5% (7th lowest)

West Virginia
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,704 (22nd lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,157 (4th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,431 (6th lowest)
> Median family income: $57,718 (2nd lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 5.6% (3rd highest)

Wisconsin
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $46,795 (14th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,024 (19th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,457 (7th lowest)
> Median family income: $76,814 (23rd highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.6% (10th lowest)

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Wyoming
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $51,341 (17th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,017 (18th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,028 (17th highest)
> Median family income: $78,352 (20th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.8% (18th lowest)

Methodology

To determine the income it takes for a family meet basic needs in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed March 2018 data on the yearly income a two-parent, no children family needs in order to maintain a modest yet adequate standard of living from the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator. Income estimates account for expenses related to housing, food, transportation, health care, taxes, and other necessities, and were aggregated from the county to the state level.

Data on median family income and the percentage of families earning $10,000 or less came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. All data are for the most recent year available.