A family of four in Boulder County needs to make over $100,000 a year to meet their basic needs, according to the most recent Self-Sufficiency Standard evaluation for Colorado.
Prepared for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy by the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington, the Self-Sufficiency Standard is a calculation of how much income a family must earn to meet their basic needs — something that varies by family composition and where they live. The analysis is conducted every few years for Colorado.
The standard is based on the costs of basic needs and bills, including housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, taxes and miscellaneous costs.
Over the last 21 years, according to this measure, the standard for a family composed of two adults, one preschooler and one school-aged child has increased by 124% for all Colorado counties.
“Note that the standard is ‘bare bones,’ with just enough allotted to meet basic needs, but no extras,” the report said. “For example, the food budget is only for groceries. It does not allow for any takeout or restaurant food, not even a pizza or an ice cream.”
In Boulder, one adult needs to make $41,058 a year to meet their basic needs; one adult with a preschooler needs $80,435; one adult with a preschooler and school age child needs $99,411; and two adults with a preschooler and school age child needs $107,462.
For that same family of four, the self-sufficiency standard for Boulder in 2001 was $49,456 and $85,836 in 2018.
The report points out that the minimum wage in Colorado for 2022 was $12.56 an hour, or $34,279 a year if working full time. For a one-adult household with a preschool and school-age child, the parent must work 134 hours a week at minimum wage to meet the family’s basic needs.
The authors argue that closing the gap requires reducing costs — whether that’s housing, food or child care assistance — and raising incomes. In Boulder County, a self-sufficiency wage for one adult with a preschooler is between $33.57-$42.56, 375% the minimum wage and 88% of the median family income in the county.
The report for 2022 argues that this calculation is a more accurate depiction of needs than the federal poverty measure.
“The official poverty measure, developed half a century ago, is now methodologically out of date and no longer accurately measures the ability to provide for oneself and one’s family. At best it measures ‘deprivation,’” the report said.
The self-sufficiency measure for Boulder County is equal to 432% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.