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Center for Labor Research and Education

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Living Wage and Self-Sufficiency Tools and Data

Self-Sufficiency Standard
The Self-Sufficiency Standard calculates how much money working adults need to meet their basic needs without subsidies of any kind. The Center for Women’s Welfare website includes a self-sufficiency calculator for 37 states, as well as a wealth of other information, data, and advocacy resources. See also their information on the development and uses of the self-sufficiency standard.

The Self-Sufficiency Standard for California
Interactive tool from The Insight Center for Community Economic Development (the Insight Center) that measures how much income is needed for a family of a certain composition living in a particular county to adequately meet its minimal basic needs.

Making Ends Meet: How Much Does it Cost to Raise a Family in California?
This report from the California Budget Project looks at how much income is needed to achieve a modest standard of living in California without public assistance. There is also a family budget calculator that shows how much it costs for a family in California to cover basic expenses; the budgets are calculated for all 58 California counties and four family types.

Out of Reach—Housing Wage Data
A report compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition that compares wages and rents in jurisdictions across the United States. For each jurisdiction, the report calculates the amount of money a household must earn in order to afford a rental unit at the area’s Fair Market Rent (FMR). Data is available by state, county, Metropolitan Statistical Area, or nonmetro areas.

Economic Security Database
The Basic Economic Security Tables™ (BEST) Index, developed by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) and the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, is a measure of the income that workers and their families need to meet basic needs and develop the savings that promotes life-long and intergenerational security. The BEST Index is specific to family size, ages of children, location and receipt of employment-based benefits.

Living Wage Calculator
This online tool is designed to provide a minimum estimate of the cost of living for low wage families. The estimates do not reflect a middle class standard of living. Estimates are available at the county level as well as the city level. Updated in 2014.

Basic Family Budget Calculator
From the Economic Policy Institute, the Family Budget Calculator compiles the costs of essentials such as housing, food, child care, transportation and health care in different regions of the country to provide an estimate of how much families need to get by.

The State of Working America
Published by the Economic Policy Institute, The State of Working America uses a broad range of data to answer a basic question: “How well has the American economy worked to provide acceptable growth in living standards for most households?” The entire book is available online and is downloadable; also available are summary fact sheets and an “open data” feature to allow download of additional data for selected charts.