Today, the Economic Policy Institute and the Denver-based Front Range Economic Strategy Center (FRESC) In EPI’s Family Budgets and Income Sufficiency in Denver, Colorado, Economic Policy Institute Economic Analyst David Cooper and Senior Economist Elise Gould calculate that 41 percent of Denver families do not earn enough income to attain the modest but secure standard of living defined by EPI’s Family Budget Calculator. Cooper and Gould estimate that family budgets for families in the Denver metro area range from a low of $28,829 a year for a single person with no children, to $98,873 a year for families with two parents and four children. Roughly 388,000 families, or 848,000 people, fall below this budget threshold.
“Wages have been stagnant throughout the country for decades. As a consequence, even in relatively affluent cities like Denver, a significant portion of the population is earning too little to achieve even a modest level of economic security,” said Cooper.
The share of people below the family budget threshold varies considerably by race. Only 32.1 percent of whites have incomes below what’s required by EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, while 71.9 percent of Hispanics fall below the threshold. Non-citizens in Denver are twice as likely to fall below the family budget threshold.
“EPI’s Family Budget Calculator is an essential tool for calculating what families really need to get by,” said Gould. “It goes beyond traditional measures like the poverty line to account for differences in regional cost-of-living, as well as basic needs like childcare, transportation, and more.”
For over a decade, EPI has calculated basic family budgets for every area of the United States. These budgets measure how much it costs various representative family types in over 600 local areas across the country to have a modest but adequate standard of living. They measure the income families need by estimating location-specific costs of housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, taxes, and other necessities. As a result of EPI’s well-respected methodology, the Family Budget Calculator has been used and cited extensively by living-wage advocates, private employers, academics, and policymakers looking for comprehensive measures of economic security.
A nationwide update of the Family Budget Calculator will be completed in the summer of 2015.