What Does It Take To Get By In West Virginia?
The Economic Policy Institute has updated its Family Budget Calculator for 2013. The Family Budget Calculator measures the income level necessary for families to secure an adequate but modest living standard by estimating community-specific costs of housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes. The calculator gives a broader measure of economic welfare than the standard poverty threshold. While the poverty threshold measures the income level necessary to live free of serious economic deprivation, the Family Budget Calculator measures what is necessary in order to live securely yet modestly, without any government assistance. The calculator measures a modest cost of living for households of six family types across 615 urban and rural communities in West Virginia and across the country.
For the Charleston, WV metro area, the household costs for a family with two adults and two children adds up to $58,165. That is how much a family would need to earn to afford food, housing, healthcare, and other necessities without relying on food stamps, subsidized housing, child care and other government assistance programs. While West Virginia is generally considered a low cost-of-living state, according to the ACS, the median income for a married-couple family in West Virginia was $58,220. That means the typical family would have to spend nearly every dollar it has just to live comfortably.
With the typical family just getting by, families with parents working low-wage jobs simply will not earn enough through work to meet basic family needs. A family with with both parents working full time making $9.60/hour, which would put it in the 20th percentile (and above the minimum wage), would earn $39,963 annually, nearly $20,000 short of what is needed to live securely.
The figure below breaks down the costs for a two-parent, two-child family in Charleston, with monthly expenses totaling $4,847. Health care is the biggest cost, amounting to 29% of the family's budget, while the costs of child care is also significant, accounting for 18%.
As the calculator shows, many hard-working families in West Virginia are struggling to make ends meet even with full-time jobs. Investing in our workforce and in our public services, through education, workforce training, Medicaid benefits, food and housing assistance, and subsidized child care helps these families get by.
Check out the calculator here for budgets for one- and two-parent families with one to three children in 12 different areas of the state.