Today, EPI updated its signature Family Budget Calculator with 2023 data on the cost of living in all counties and metro areas across the country. The Family Budget Calculator estimates community-specific costs—including housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, taxes, and other basic necessities—for 10 family types (one or two adults with zero to four children). An accompanying user’s guide explains how policymakers, employers, and advocates can set meaningful living wage standards using the calculator.
San Francisco topped the list of most expensive metro areas, with a basic budget of $181,277 a year for a two-parent, two-child household. However, with a median family income of $169,883, incomes in San Francisco are the second highest in the country. Meanwhile, although its basic budget for a two-parent, two-child household of only $76,455 makes Holmes County, Mississippi, the least expensive metro area in the country, the median family income is only $41,083—making this area much less affordable than the topline numbers indicate.
The Family Budget Calculator is a stark reminder that many workers in low-wage jobs are not paid enough to meet their family’s basic needs. Even after adjusting for higher state and city minimum wages, there is nowhere in the country where a minimum-wage worker—even a single adult without children—is paid enough to meet the requirements of their local family budget on their wages alone.
As the user’s guide explains, setting a living wage requires political decisions about how much families should rely only on wages to make ends meet. For instance, if families have access to other resources like employer-provided health insurance or universal pre-K, it could lower the living wage required to meet their family budget. In addition, assumptions about family size and composition, labor force participation, and work hours all factor into the question of what wage level constitutes a living wage.
“Our Family Budget Calculator shows that families are struggling to make ends meet across the country. This is a policy choice. Policymakers must do much more to ease the financial burden on families, including by raising minimum wages, lowering child care and health care costs, and boosting social safety net programs,” said Zane Mokhiber, EPI director of data management and analysis.