WASHINGTON — For working parents raising two children in the cheapest metro area in the U.S., annual expenses for necessities will easily exceed the 2012 poverty threshold for a family of four, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute.
The report estimated annual expenses on essentials — housing, food, child care, transportation and health care — for a family of four at about $49,000, more than twice as much as the federal poverty benchmark. And that figure is only valid for a family living in Marshall County, Miss., the cheapest metro area in the U.S. Go somewhere pricier — New York City, for example — and annual expenses exceed $93,000.
Unlike the poverty threshold, a minimum income level below which a person is officially considered to lack adequate subsistence, the numbers from the Family Budget Calculator are intended to demonstrate the actual cost of raising a secure family of one, two or three children with one or two parents. The figures are based on value estimates from cities and metro areas across the nation and, taken together, demonstrate not only the degree to which the cost of living varies throughout the U.S., but also the high price of raising a family in modest but comfortable circumstances.
The calculator also demonstrates the difficulty of raising a family on minimum wage. One parent working a full-time, minimum-wage job would earn little more than $15,000 per year. Two parents with full-time, minimum-wage employment would out-earn the poverty benchmark but would still be unable to meet the essentials defined by the report for a single child. Even in Marshall County, expenses for a family of three exceed $44,000, according to the report.
Food and transportations costs for families across the nation were roughly equal, according to the calculator. Health care costs were also roughly equal. The greatest variables, according to the report, were housing and child care. Housing accounted for 10.8 percent to 25.6 percent of a family's budget. With larger families, the calculator assumes children will share bedrooms. Child care costs had the greatest variability, ranging from $334 per child in rural Mississippi to $1,318 in Washington, D.C.
With child care costs so high in some areas, the report called for greater child care support from employers to ease the financial burden.
Though the cost of living was generally higher in cities, some rural areas proved more expensive than their urban counterparts. In rural Idaho, for example, a three-person family can expect annual expenses of about $50,000, while living in the Boise metro area costs a little less than $49,000 per year.