What does it take to live in Washington state? To pay for the bare necessities like rent, childcare, groceries, clothing, shoes, transport to work, telephone service, cleaning products and household items? (That’s without the additional costs of any comforts such as savings, vacations, cable TV, or the occasional restaurant meal.)
A new report and this handy online calculator from the University of Washington School of Social Work researcher Diana Pearce answers that question in great detail. She’s come up with a “self-sufficiency wage” for families of various sizes and compositions living in each of the state’s counties.
The report is full of interesting data that demonstrate how little the federal definition of poverty has to do with surviving in the real world. They also help explain why so many people feel economically squeezed and why year after year it feels harder to make the same ends meet. In the last two years, for instance, the recession has kept median income from growing across Washington state. But the economic downturn hasn’t kept the cost of basic needs from rising. Over that time period, the cost of food and housing and other life expenses across Washington state rose by 8.4 percent, the report found.