Understanding What Families Need to Get By: EPI’s Family Budget Calculator

September 2nd, 2015

Across Mississippi many families and communities face financial hardships that threaten their economic security.  However, understanding the resources necessary for families to be economically sufficient is important in developing policies and programs to support the working poor.

Recently, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released its updated Family Budget Calculator. The calculator illustrates, in clear, approachable term, “what’s required for families to attain a secure yet modest standard of living”. The calculator allows users to select their city, state or zip code and number of adults and children per household. It then takes this information and generates a community-specific cost estimate of housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities and taxes.

For example, the calculator estimates it costs a family of four (including two adults and two children) $5,214 per month (or $62,574 per year) to live modestly, yet securely in Jackson, Mississippi. For a single person, he or she would require $26,877 a year to meet his or her basic needs—more than $10,000 in excess of what a full-time minimum wage worker earns.

In addition to taking into consideration specific community costs for the basic necessities, the calculator also considers the financial resources needed to generate a family budget that doesn’t necessitate persistent deprivation in order to make ends meet.

The Family Budget Calculator estimates throw into sharp relief the inadequacies of both the federal poverty line and the minimum wage as gauges for determining the level at which individuals and families become financially at-risk and the minimum hourly rate at which an individuals can hope to sustain themselves.

Molly Bashay-04