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Economic Policy Institute

Economic Policy Institute


How much does a family need to earn in Rochester for a “secure, yet modest standard of living?” The Economic Policy Institute recently updated its Family Budget Calculator. The results show many families likely fall below the threshold.

EPI found a single person in Rochester needs to earn at least $28,774 a year. That puts us on par with many other communities and is slightly lower than the median non-family household income in Rochester. But when you start to add children to the mix, costs escalate. A household with one parent and one child needs to earn $55,530 in Rochester. Other communities see much lower costs for child care. A two-parent household with two children needs to earn $81,106 in Rochester. That’s 27 percent above the median family income here.

The EPI does this calculator to show the federal poverty threshold is not adequate to describe financial realities for families.

Do you think this calculator reflects the true cost of living here?



Economic Policy Institute

Economic Policy Institute


Links of the Day:


– “New York and other states should compete for business by cutting taxes and red tape and improving services, not cutting checks.”

– Start Up NY has yet to deny an application, records show.

– How companies make millions off lead-poisoned, poor blacks.

– Buffalo believes it’s now a primary concert market.

25 Responses to What It Takes To Live Here

  1. Rachel, did you dig into the numbers to see why child care in New York is twice as much (or more) than in other states? It would be interesting to see why that is so.

    • August 26, 2015 at 1:56 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      I’m assuming there are worker regulations. And Gillibrand often says NY expensive for daycare.

      • You can see how much government regulations raise the cost of providing services. And people wonder why businesses don’t open in New York State.

    • Having looked into opening a daycare. we found that the cost of state mandated insurance was large compared to competitive tuition rates. and once you factor in staff wages, utilities, and food (if you choose to provide meals you can easily be over 1000/kid before the owner(s) starts making a profit.

  2. The EPI is wrong is you’re single person with student loan debt. :/

  3. August 26, 2015 at 12:56 pm BobNoxious responds:

    Rachel, Our food cost has to be higher. Wegmans is running about $300 more/mth for my family of 4.

  4. August 26, 2015 at 12:59 pm Bob Lewis responds:

    The Health Care numbers seems highly suspect to me. Given the availability of low cost coverage under ACA or employee funded coverage, I doubt there are many (if anyone) paying this much. Also I think the child care costs vary greatly based on the age of the children.

    • We are, once you average the premiums and what we pay for a deductible. 800 is not unreasonable. Personally I pay 600 a month for a family of 3 plus a 3000 deductible. that averages out to 850/month (if you meet your full deductible in a year).

  5. Also, the transportation costs are identical, yet gas average prices in those cities today range from 2.34 to 2.61. The numbers should not be the same. It seems the data for the story is flawed.

  6. August 26, 2015 at 1:50 pm Jack Lamphier responds:

    What in the world is the deal on child care. Somethings wrong

  7. August 26, 2015 at 1:52 pm Rick Geiger responds:

    There numbers are fantasy, which is par for the course for EPI. . First, only $813 in taxes per month? That is mathematically impossible. To have 81k to spend the person would need to make very close to 100k based on approx 23% tax, and that is probably low, so that is like at lease 19k in just income/payroll taxes. Then they have sales tax, gas tax, taxes on utilities, property (whether they pay or the property owner pays)…and more. And only 2k for child care? If the two children are young and the parents work full time, 2k would not even get close to covering it. 4 people only 800 a month for food? Maybe if the shopper is a great coupon person and inventive cook. I could go on, but their numbers are silly.

  8. House – Very accurate
    Food – Less, but we only have 3 people
    Child Care- Seems accurate for 2 children. We paid around $700 for one child and I know our center was less expensive than others.
    Transportation – Seems high, but I am not sure if this just includes gas or other things.
    Health Care – I would have to look.
    Other Necessities – Whatever they might be, sure.
    Taxes – From my perspective, off by at least $400..

  9. August 26, 2015 at 4:19 pm Monkeytoe responds:

    Food is high. We are a family of four of decent means and we buy fairly expensive food and don’t spend that much. I know that if we could cut down on food costs pretty easily if we had to. I would say $600 for a family of 4 for food.

    I’m surprised that Rochester is the same as these places for transportation. While cost of car and cost of gas would be pretty similar, insurance, registration, sales tax, and the like are probably more here. Is “transportation” for 2 cars? Or one car?

    Child care is right if you are going to high-end places. But, if there are plenty of cheaper options out there. I would put child care at $1,500/month for 2 kids (talking a moderate means family).

    With all that said, I know you can live in this area for far less than $80k a year. I know people doing it and living a moderate lifestyle. It has to do with budgeting and living within your means.
    Not sure what they are including in “taxes” – income taxes? Sales taxes? Property taxes?

    I don’t know what they have listed as “other necessities”?

  10. The number is way off. I know many families who raise children here on much less than 80K.

    Assuming the 2 jobs are not equal pay, but say 35K and 45K. If the 35K job were lost, they would save over 24K in child care, about 8K in taxes (7.65% payroll tax, 10% federal tax, 5% NYS tax), possible savings on food, transportation and clothing since work travel, lunches and wardrobe may be cut back.

    In effect, the 35K job will increase costs by about 35K given this model.

    Having a parent stay with the children and raise them as a loving caring parent can be done at little or no cost. The children will learn the parents’ values and be in a loving household, not sharing attention with several other unrelated children with different needs.

    • August 27, 2015 at 10:59 am Some Guy responds:

      Excellent points, Tom.

      Rachel, I find most of the EPI’s numbers to be pretty far-fetched. Property taxes alone for a family of four of modest means around here could easily exceed $500 a month, and I doubt they’d only be paying an additional $413 in sales, income, FICA, and excise taxes.

      A decent amount of those food figures, like day care costs, often tend to be choices that, as Tom highlights, place families in a worse position than had one spouse simply taken a sabbatical from working while the children are young.

      And this ignores the perverse incentives the welfare state has created, Here’s the summary of a study on the issue from the State of Pennsylvania (I don’t agree with the proposed solutions to the study, but the identified problems are even more pronounced in NYS than in Pa.):

      “…the single mom is better off earnings gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income & benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income and benefits of $57,045.”


      For every 1.65 employed persons in the private sector, 1 person receives welfare assistance.

      For every 1.25 employed persons in the private sector, 1 person receives welfare assistance or works for the government.

      Government and government policies have been unsustainable for decades, but are living in a time when many of these systems are in the early stages of collapse.

  11. We’ve all pointed out some glaring obvious discrepancies in the numbers. Do these charts and figures get posted without anyone looking at them for reasonableness or common sense???

  12. August 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm Adrian Martin responds:

    Their estimate on transportation cost is likely low for people who drive cars in Rochester given how much damage salt does to cars in WNY. Looks like EPI just says $608 across the board. People in Rochester have to spend much more money on car repairs and buying another car sooner than people in NC, given the rust from salt, and also damage from potholes caused by freezing/thawing. NC doesn’t have those problems.
    If you look at their methodology, they just look at miles driven (how many work and social trips people took in 2009) times $.56/mile (IRS’s 2014 mileage rate). So it assumes that a mile driven in Texas is equal to a mile driven in the Adirondacks. It also doesn’t look at public transport: “we judge that in many MSAs, the use of a vehicle may be necessary to get to and from major destinations… In areas in which public transportation is accessible for traveling to and from major destinations, this cost may be overstated.” It’ll also miss costs for parking, in areas where that is significant.

    • When information is posted to back up a position someone should look at it for reasonableness and check the methodology ahead of time.
      The January 5 post of The Rochesterian was titled: This “Poll” Is Crap.
      Maybe this could be the sequel.

  13. You can save money on food – you don’t need to spend that much. Day care is expensive but it’s not for entire childhoods. We don’t spend that much on transportation either.

  14. Rachel-
    There is a link about lead poisoning written by Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post.
    I’m puzzled by it’s title. Is it implying that no white people were affected by this?
    If whites were affected, then it seems to me he is making it a racial issue and headlines like that only serve to foster anger and division.
    As a fellow journalist, could you follow up with Mr. McCoy and find out if any white people were harmed as well? If so, perhaps a better headline would be “How companies make millions off lead poisoned poor people” leaving out a racial inference that only fuels the division that already is an epidemic. Sometimes that `grabbing’ headline only causes trouble. He should report accurately, not for increasing ratings.

    • September 8, 2015 at 8:57 am Adrian Martin responds:

      Part of the really bad part of housing discrimination (discriminatory landlords, redlining by banks, purchasing houses “on contract” because mortgages were denied, etc.) was that black people were pushed into bad housing stock, and thus were exposed to lead paint and dust at higher rates.

      • I agree there was predatory lending occurring. I agree that many poor people were told they qualified for loans they never should have been given.
        My contention is that there were victims of more than just one race and to say that only one race was victimized only widens the gap of anger.
        In this case, the victims were poor people – of many races. Let’s not keep placing a wedge in the problem thus widening the gap and increasing the hatred.

  15. September 13, 2015 at 11:36 pm MrRochester responds:

    All of this is common sense, and tells me:

    1.) Dont have children, unless you can afford to. Wear a condom.

    2.) If two people cant earn $81,106 annually, they are doing something wrong.

    3.) We pay way too much to NYS for taxes.

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