Scholarly Publications

Basic Family Budgets

Working Families' Incomes Often Fail to Meet Living Expenses Around the United States


The ability of families to meet their most basic needs is an important measure of economic stability and well-being. While poverty thresholds are used to evaluate the extent of serious economic deprivation in our society, family budgets—that is, the income a family needs to secure safe and decent-yet-modest living standards in the community in which it resides—offer a broader measure of economic welfare. Basic family budgets take into account differences in both geographic location and family type. In total, this report presents basic budgets for more than 400 U.S. communities and six family types (either one or two parents with one, two, or three children). That the budgets differ by location is important, since certain costs, such as housing, vary significantly depending on where one resides. This geographic dimension of family budget measurements offers a comparative advantage over using poverty thresholds, which only use a national baseline in their measurements.

Citation: International Journal of Health Services 36(3):443–454. 2006.