Living Wage and Self-Sufficiency Tools and Data

The following is a compilation of living wage and self-sufficiency calculators that provide data on California. By considering the cost of living, these measures estimate a living wage for working California adults with different family sizes. Some measures produce different estimates of a living wage. These differences can be attributed to differences in data sources, methodology, and assumptions regarding expected standard of living.

Updated March 1, 2023

Living Wage Calculator – MIT

This calculator by MIT includes living wage calculations at the state, MSA, and county level for all U.S. states. The living wage data is updated annually and includes calculations for one adult and two adult households, where both adults are working or where only one adult is in the workforce, with up to three dependent children.

This living wage calculator includes basic needs such as food, childcare, medical expenses, housing, transportation, and other miscellaneous needs. The living wage is provided both as an hourly wage and an annual income before and after taxes have been deducted.

Family Budget Calculator – Economic Policy Institute

From the Economic Policy Institute, the Family Budget Calculator compiles the costs of essentials such as housing, food, childcare, transportation, health care, taxes, and other necessities in all U.S. counties and metro areas to provide an estimate of how much families need to get by.

The calculator includes costs for one or two adult households with up to four children. The budget calculator includes both the monthly and annual total needed to maintain a modest standard of living.

The Self-Sufficiency Standard – Center for Women’s Welfare

The Center for Women’s Welfare Self-Sufficiency Standard defines the income working families need to meet a minimum yet adequate level, taking into account family composition, ages of children, and geographic differences in costs. The family options include up to 10 children, with options to specify the life phase of each child  if there are less than six.  The living wage measure can be downloaded by state, and includes measures by county.

Family Needs Calculator – Insight Center

This interactive tool from The Insight Center for Community Economic Development (the Insight Center) measures how much income is needed for families living in each county in California to adequately meet its minimal basic needs. The calculator includes family composition options with up to three adults and six children, with options to designate if the children are infants, preschoolers, school-aged, or teenagers.

This calculator reports hourly, monthly, and annual wage needs for each family composition, and includes tax credits and costs such as rent, utilities, childcare, health care, food, transportation, taxes, and miscellaneous needs.

The Real Cost Measure in California 2021 – United Ways of California

The Real Cost Measure calculates the cost of living in California by county and region and factors in the cost of housing, health care, childcare, transportation, and other basic needs. There are twelve family options, with one or two adults and up to three children that are infants, pre-schoolers, school-age, or teenagers. The calculator shows the number of people below the calculated measure and their education and race/ethnicity.

Making Ends Meet: How Much Does it Cost to Raise a Family in California? – California Budget and Policy Center

This 2017 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. The family budget calculator from this report’s analysis shows how much it costs for a family in California to cover basic expenses such as housing and utilities, childcare, transportation, food, health care, taxes, and miscellaneous costs. The budgets are calculated for all 58 California counties and four family types – single adult, single adult with two children, two parents working with two children, and two parents with one working and two children.