Special Report

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

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Millions of jobs have been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the early months. While some jobs have since been regained, more than 10 million people in the American labor force are still unemployed. And many of those who still have a job have had to take a pay cut or reduced hours. To date, the federal government has awarded two stimulus checks, with a maximum combined per-individual payout of $2,000. For many, those two stimulus checks have done little to make up for their income losses during the crisis that is now more than a year old

The U.S.’s official poverty measure, which sets an income threshold based on household size, is intended to capture those individuals and families who are unable to meet basic needs. However, many economists contest the traditional measure — which does not include several expense categories and does not adjust for regional cost of living differences — is inadequate in assessing just how many Americans are unable to meet their basic needs. 

24/7 Wall St. reviewed March 2018 cost of living estimates, adjusted for inflation, 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, including housing, food, transportation, health care, and others, as well as taxes. The income required for a family of two to meet these necessities varies from just under $45,000 in one state to over $69,000 in another. These income thresholds are much higher than the Census Bureau’s official poverty threshold for a household with two people of $16,521.

Of course, for larger families, the EPI’s estimated annual family budget is tens of thousands of dollars higher in every state. 

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 $70,000, and for a family of four well above $120,000. 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. This is the most expensive place to live in every state.

Click here to see the income a family really needs to avoid poverty in every state.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.

Alabama
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $50,069 (19th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,797 (10th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,138 (25th lowest)
> Median family income: $66,171 (6th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.6% (6th highest)

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Alaska
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $67,108 (2nd highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $12,335 (10th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,604 (3rd lowest)
> Median family income: $91,971 (11th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.0% (3rd lowest – tied)

Arizona
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $54,307 (16th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,507 (25th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,895 (17th lowest)
> Median family income: $74,468 (17th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.9% (10th highest – tied)

Arkansas
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $44,839 (the lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,041 (the lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,714 (9th lowest)
> Median family income: $62,387 (4th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.9% (11th highest – tied)

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California
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $61,900 (4th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $16,139 (2nd highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,632 (7th highest)
> Median family income: $91,377 (12th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.9% (23rd lowest – tied)

Colorado
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $56,535 (12th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $12,431 (9th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,372 (16th highest)
> Median family income: $95,164 (7th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.2% (5th lowest – tied)

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Connecticut
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $60,177 (6th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $13,700 (7th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,649 (6th highest)
> Median family income: $101,272 (4th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.6% (7th lowest – tied)

Delaware
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $56,681 (11th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,157 (16th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,379 (15th highest)
> Median family income: $87,148 (16th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.7% (15th lowest – tied)

Florida
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $52,059 (24th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,049 (17th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,522 (11th highest)
> Median family income: $71,348 (11th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.5% (18th highest – tied)

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Georgia
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $52,605 (22nd highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,772 (22nd highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,035 (22nd lowest)
> Median family income: $74,833 (18th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.7% (14th highest – tied)

Hawaii
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $69,205 (the highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $16,610 (the highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $8,822 (the highest)
> Median family income: $96,462 (6th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.0% (24th highest – tied)

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Idaho
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,164 (9th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,732 (7th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,142 (25th highest)
> Median family income: $72,365 (13th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.3% (7th lowest – tied)

Illinois
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $53,233 (19th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,018 (18th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,743 (11th lowest)
> Median family income: $87,771 (15th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.9% (24th lowest – tied)

Indiana
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $46,807 (5th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,105 (14th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,493 (the lowest)
> Median family income: $73,876 (16th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.2% (21st highest – tied)

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Iowa
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,542 (11th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,505 (5th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,631 (5th lowest)
> Median family income: $78,152 (25th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.8% (22nd lowest – tied)

Kansas
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $49,312 (15th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,056 (13th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,997 (21st lowest)
> Median family income: $79,006 (25th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.7% (17th lowest – tied)

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Kentucky
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $45,538 (4th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,286 (2nd lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,606 (4th lowest)
> Median family income: $66,183 (7th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 5.1% (3rd highest)

Louisiana
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $50,252 (20th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,851 (24th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,963 (20th lowest)
> Median family income: $65,105 (5th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 6.0% (the highest)

Maine
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $54,976 (15th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $10,167 (19th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,986 (3rd highest)
> Median family income: $76,316 (22nd lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.6% (11th lowest – tied)

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Maryland
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $58,983 (7th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $14,919 (4th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,391 (14th highest)
> Median family income: $105,679 (3rd highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.6% (6th lowest – tied)

Massachusetts
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $58,129 (10th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $14,163 (6th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,777 (4th highest)
> Median family income: $108,348 (the highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.6% (5th lowest – tied)

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Michigan
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $47,086 (6th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,521 (21st lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,787 (13th lowest)
> Median family income: $75,703 (20th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.4% (19th highest – tied)

Minnesota
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $53,246 (18th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,596 (24th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,167 (22nd highest)
> Median family income: $93,584 (9th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 1.9% (2nd lowest)

Mississippi
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,125 (8th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,784 (9th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,123 (24th lowest)
> Median family income: $58,503 (the lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 5.7% (2nd highest)

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Missouri
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,606 (12th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,888 (11th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,738 (10th lowest)
> Median family income: $73,457 (15th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.4% (19th highest – tied)

Montana
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $52,011 (25th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,172 (15th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,077 (23rd lowest)
> Median family income: $73,014 (14th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.7% (18th lowest – tied)

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Nebraska
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $51,371 (24th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,980 (12th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,784 (12th lowest)
> Median family income: $80,062 (23rd highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.2% (5th lowest – tied)

Nevada
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $47,864 (7th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,634 (23rd highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,197 (20th highest)
> Median family income: $76,124 (21st lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.2% (21st highest – tied)

New Hampshire
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $52,897 (21st highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,658 (12th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,601 (8th highest)
> Median family income: $97,112 (5th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 1.6% (the lowest)

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New Jersey
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $58,924 (8th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $14,681 (5th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,564 (9th highest)
> Median family income: $105,705 (2nd highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.3% (7th lowest – tied)

New Mexico
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $45,236 (3rd lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,414 (20th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,894 (16th lowest)
> Median family income: $61,826 (3rd lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.8% (5th highest)

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New York
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $61,975 (3rd highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $15,709 (3rd highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,767 (5th highest)
> Median family income: $89,475 (13th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.7% (12th highest – tied)

North Carolina
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $55,129 (14th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,779 (22nd lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,932 (19th lowest)
> Median family income: $72,049 (12th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.7% (15th highest – tied)

North Dakota
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,435 (10th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,320 (17th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,177 (21st highest)
> Median family income: $87,055 (17th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.5% (10th lowest)

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Ohio
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $45,223 (2nd lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,728 (6th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,708 (8th lowest)
> Median family income: $74,911 (19th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.7% (13th highest – tied)

Oklahoma
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $50,339 (21st lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,773 (8th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,916 (18th lowest)
> Median family income: $68,358 (8th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.1% (8th highest)

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Oregon
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $55,225 (13th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,208 (15th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,270 (18th highest)
> Median family income: $82,540 (20th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.7% (16th lowest – tied)

Pennsylvania
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $52,576 (23rd highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,970 (21st highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,163 (23rd highest)
> Median family income: $81,075 (22nd highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.5% (17th highest – tied)

Rhode Island
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $51,089 (23rd lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,355 (14th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,528 (10th highest)
> Median family income: $89,373 (14th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.8% (21st lowest – tied)

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South Carolina
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $51,593 (25th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,805 (23rd lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,890 (15th lowest)
> Median family income: $70,537 (10th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.2% (7th highest)

South Dakota
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $49,431 (17th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,361 (3rd lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,222 (19th highest)
> Median family income: $76,826 (24th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.1% (23rd highest)

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Tennessee
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $49,436 (18th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,268 (16th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,145 (24th highest)
> Median family income: $69,993 (9th lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.7% (16th highest – tied)

Texas
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,725 (13th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $10,063 (20th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,539 (2nd lowest)
> Median family income: $76,727 (23rd lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.9% (9th highest – tied)

Utah
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $49,368 (16th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $9,281 (25th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,825 (14th lowest)
> Median family income: $86,152 (18th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.0% (3rd lowest – tied)

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Vermont
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $60,882 (5th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $11,411 (13th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $7,334 (2nd highest)
> Median family income: $83,458 (19th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.6% (10th lowest – tied)

Virginia
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $58,400 (9th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $13,418 (8th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,452 (12th highest)
> Median family income: $93,497 (10th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.6% (9th lowest – tied)

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Washington
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $52,981 (20th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $12,132 (11th highest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,432 (13th highest)
> Median family income: $94,709 (8th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.6% (8th lowest – tied)

West Virginia
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $50,798 (22nd lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $7,464 (4th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,664 (6th lowest)
> Median family income: $60,920 (2nd lowest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 4.9% (4th highest)

Wisconsin
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $48,807 (14th lowest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,369 (19th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $5,692 (7th lowest)
> Median family income: $81,829 (21st highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 2.3% (7th lowest – tied)

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Wyoming
> Annual cost of living (family of 2): $53,548 (17th highest)
> Annual housing costs (family of 2): $8,362 (18th lowest)
> Annual food costs (family of 2): $6,288 (17th highest)
> Median family income: $79,946 (24th highest)
> Families earning less than $10,000: 3.0% (25th highest – tied)

Methodology

To determine the income required for a family of two adults, no children, to meet basic needs in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed March 2018 budget data from the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator. The budget includes items such a family would need in order to maintain a modest yet adequate standard of living. Income estimates include expenses related to housing, food, transportation, health care, taxes, and other necessities, and are aggregated from the county to the state level using population data from the EPI. Data was adjusted for inflation from 2017 dollars to 2019 dollars using CPI data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Data on median family income and the percentage of families earning $10,000 or less came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. All data are for the most recent year available.

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