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An average family in Ann Arbor needs $68,140 to get by


That's the estimate for a family made up of two parents and two kids.

The numbers are calculated by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank based in Washington D.C.

You can look up your specific living situation with their updated "Family Budget Calculator."

EPI says the calculator estimates the annual income a family needs for a "secure yet modest living standard."

It estimates expenses related to housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes. And by their calculations, families at the poverty level set by the federal government are nowhere near the EPI's "getting by" threshold.

The budgets, updated for 2013, are calculated for 615 U.S. communities and six family types (either one or two parents with one, two, or three children)...EPI’s family budgets offer a higher degree of geographic customization and provide a more accurate measure of economic security. In all cases, they show families need more than twice the amount of the federal poverty line to get by.

Of the 20 areas the EPI examined in Michigan, the Ann Arbor area came out on top as the most expensive place to live.  Rural Michigan was the least expensive.

Here's a look at the Michigan areas EPI put into their calculator, from most expensive to least expensive (for two-parent, two-child families):

  1. Ann Arbor - $68,140
  2. Detroit-Warren-Livonia - $66,896
  3. Livingston County - $66,734
  4. Lansing-East Lansing - $66,192
  5. Monroe - $65,282
  6. Barry County - $65,075
  7. Grand Rapids-Wyoming - $65,043
  8. Battle Creek - $65,020
  9. Ionia County - $64,671
  10. Kalamazoo-Portage - $64,634
  11. Flint - $64,563
  12. Holland-Grand Haven - $64,526
  13. Jackson - $64,447
  14. Niles-Benton Harbor - $63,741
  15. Saginaw - Saginaw Township North $63,479
  16. Cass County - $63,242
  17. Newaygo County - $63,238
  18. Muskegon-Norton Shores - $62,872
  19. Bay City - $62,669
  20. Rural - $62,058

The U.S. Census Bureau foundthat the median income for a family of four in Michigan was $72,366 (2011). So by this calculation, more than half the families in Michigan are making what they need.

When looking at all the data in the U.S., EPI found:

  • The most expensive place for a 2 parent, 2 child home is - surprise, surprise - New York City at $93,502 - the least expensive place was Marshall County, Mississippi at $48,144.
  • Housing costs range from 10.8% to 25.6% of a family’s budget.
  • And child care costs vary greatly across family budgets, but on average they account for 20% of two-parent, two-child family budgets. EPI writes child care costs are "clearly an important leverage point for using work supports to narrow the gap between earnings and needs."

And finally, as we pointed out in an earlier post about rent and minimum wage, if you work for minimum wage, you definitely won't be "getting by" anywhere in the U.S.

Even in the best of economic times, many parents in low-wage jobs will not earn enough through work to meet basic family needs. Annual wages for one full-time, full-year minimum-wage worker total $15,080, far below what is necessary for a one-parent, one-child family to live in even the least expensive family budget area.

*I updated this post to clarify the difference between median income and average income - an earlier post stated "the average family of four in Michigan has an income of $72,366 (median family of four income in 2011)..." I took out the word 'average' above to avoid confusing the two terms.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
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