Family Of 4 Needs $76,000 Just To ‘Scrape By’ In Seattle, New UW Report Says

By Gene Balk
The Seattle Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Seattle has increased at more than twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation often used as a cost-of-living indicator.

The Seattle Times

Just to scrape by in Seattle, a family of four would need to earn $76,000 in a year — an 86 percent jump since 2001 — according to a new report from the University of Washington.

And by scrape by, I really mean scrape by.

There isn’t a vacation, a splurge item at Nordstrom, or even a little treat written into that budget, says the report’s author, Diana Peace, who is a senior lecturer in the UW School of Social Work and director of the Center for Women’s Welfare.

“It’s a basic-needs budget, at a minimally adequate level,” she said. “So the food budget, for example, is only groceries. There’s not a slice of pizza, a latte or an ice- cream cone in there.”

And that’s using public transportation, not owning a car or using ride services.

For a single person in Seattle, the minimum income needed to stay afloat is $12.90 per hour, or about $27,000 per year.

On those earnings, a little more than half of the monthly budget goes toward rent, estimated at $1,236.

It’s even more expensive on the Eastside.

Pearce has been calculating these basic-needs thresholds — it’s called the Self-Sufficiency Standard — since 2001. At that time, the state workforce programs, which help unemployed people become self-sufficient, had set a uniform wage goal for the whole state.

“I said, ‘Wait a minute — different family types in different places have different costs of living,’ ” Pearce said. “Being self-sufficient in one place isn’t going to be self-sufficient in another.”

So Pearce set about creating a localized and much more granular measure of self-sufficiency — one that measures how much income families of various sizes and compositions need to make ends meet without public or private assistance across the state. She produces a new report about every three years.

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