Social Equity Indicators: Cost of Living

AARO Admin Research Findings, Social Equity Research, Uncategorized

Quality of life is lessened if the cost of living keeps a family constantly at the edge of its means. Sustainability is concerned with achieving a balance so that meeting one’s own basic needs is within reach of everyone.

Home ownership traditionally signifies economic stability and is also a key driver of land-use patterns. In addition, opportunities for home ownership have a great deal of symbolic power for communities and emotional impact on residents. However, rental housing meets the bulk of the region’s need for affordable housing.

Housing patterns in our region, as well as our nation, historically reflect deep division by race/ethnicity that has shaped land use, education, public safety and many other issues. Efforts continue both to understand why inequities persist, in our personal perceptions as well as a community, and how to resolve them.

Embodied within equity and engagement is the idea of trust that elected leaders fairly represent all those whom they represent. Measuring the efficacy of leadership is difficult and can often only be served through qualitative assessments of how values are shared and exemplified through leadership and action.

The Living Wage Calculator was developed as part of the Living Wage Project, and is a companion to the Poverty in America website. Modeled after the Economic Policy Institute’s metropolitan living wage tool, it 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, but rather minimum cost thresholds.

  • Penn. St. University
  • U.S. Bur. of Labor Statistics
  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Dvmt.

Gap between Income and Household Necessities

  • Trends show the gap in our region between Median Family Income and the Consumer Price Index (CPI, a measure that aggregates the prices of a consistent “basket of goods” in different regions and at different points in time) has narrowed since 2002. This suggests that an increasing share of a household’s income is being consumed by necessary household costs such as rent, groceries, and transportation.

Family Poverty

  • About one-third of Central Texas single mothers and their children live in poverty, as defined by the Census.
  • Most definitions of poverty are determined at the national level and can mask large numbers of individuals and families at a local level who have incomes above the poverty line, but who still have difficulty supporting their families.

Living Wage

  • A living wage is the income necessary for a family to meet its basic needs.
  • The minimum wage in Texas does not amount to a living wage for a single adult with no children.
  • While larger families predictably have higher total monthly expenses, single-parent families with children face the greatest challenge in maintaining a living wage, which is more than double the minimum hourly wage in Texas. In 2008, the Center for Public Policy Priorities estimated that 53% of single parents with children in Travis County did not make enough money to meet their basic needs.
  • In families with two parents, the minimum wage isn’t enough to maintain income above the federal poverty level.
  • The cost of child care greatly increases a family’s monthly expenses.