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D.C. Families Need $88,615 Just To ‘Get By,’ Study Says

July 11, 2013

The cost of living in the greater Washington region is 40 percent higher than the national median of $63,000. According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, a family of four in the DC area needs over $88,000 just to make ends meet.

The Community Foundation focuses its Community Leadership work in three key areas – Safety Net, Education, and Workforce Development – with the overarching goal of achieving economic security for all residents of the region. More than 175,000 families in our region are “economically insecure” and not earning enough stable income to afford basic needs like housing, utilities, food, and clothing.

Since 2008, The Community Foundation has: helped hundreds of low-income workers launch careers and go to college; increased opportunities for low-income youth to thrive; provided shelter, housing, and food for hundreds of thousands of adults and children in need; prevented hundreds of people from losing their homes; and helped preserve over $80 million in public funding for critical safety net services.

Original Post from WAMU 88.5 – By Chris Chester 

A family of four needs to earn $88,615 a year to enjoy a modest existence in the greater Washington D.C. area.

That data comes from the family budget calculator recently updated by the Economic Policy Institute. It takes into account local costs in vital areas such as housing, food, child care, transportation, health care and other necessities.

The costs for the area, which includes D.C. and nearby communities in both Maryland and Virginia, are 40 percent higher than the national median of $63,000. New York City was the only metropolitan area with higher median annual outlays for a family of four at $93,502.

According to the EPI, this data underscores the inadequacy of existing measures of poverty, which use the cost of living on a national level and do not take into account regional variations.

“Our family budget calculations show that the real costs for families to live modest, not even middle class, lives are much higher than conventional estimates show, and for families living on minimum-wage jobs, it is virtually impossible to make ends meet,” says Elise Gould, director of health policy research for the Economic Policy Institute.

The data from EPI echoes similar reports about the economic challenges of living in and near D.C. Earlier this year, a study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that minimum wage households would have to work at least three full-time jobs in order to pay fair market rent for the area.

This report is particularly relevant in light of the D.C. Council’s decision to pass legislation requiring big box retailers like Walmart to pay a “living wage” of $12.50 an hour, a 50 percent increase over the city’s existing minimum wage.

Walmart is threatening to withdraw plans for three of six planned stores in the District if the legislation is enacted.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kathryn Baer permalink
    July 12, 2013 12:26 pm

    The Economic Policy Institute’s family budget figures are certainly relevant to wage policies. But the living wage the District is seeking to foist on Walmart would fall far short of what even a smaller family needs “to get by.”

    One of the biggest ticket items EPI identifies is child care. This is something public policies can address. Housing costs, which I think may be understated, is another. I’ve got EPI’s figures for these here:

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