The Census numbers rely on the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is currently $11,770 per year for an individual and $24,250 per year for a family of four. What Struggling to Get By reveals, however, is that those numbers are actually too low. The report creates a new metric, the Real Cost Measure, to analyze what a family’s true expenses are and what the necessary annual income is to meet them. While the Real Cost Measure varies by location based on cost-of-living differences, the average income needed to meet basic needs costs for a family of two adults, one infant, and one school-aged child who rent housing is $57,202 per year, or nearly two and a half times FPL. San Francisco’s Real Cost Measure, the highest in the state, is $73,894 per year, or more than three times FPL. The lowest Real Cost Measure in the state, $43,229 in Tulare County, is still nearly twice FPL.
For today’s edition of Friday Facts, we’re going to focus on the East Bay and in particular Alameda County, of which the City of Oakland represents a sizable portion. On our site, we have a chart examining, by race and ethnicity, the percentage of families of four in Alameda County that make a living wage. In this data set, the California Department of Public Health determines a living wage to be at least $22.64 an hour and is defined as “the hourly wage rate or annual income that a sole provider working full time (2080 hours/yr) must earn to provide his/her family a minimum standard of living, covering costs of food, child care, health insurance, housing, transportation, and other necessities.”
Even a cursory glance at the numbers would show striking disparities along racial and ethnic lines, with all communities of color seeing higher rates of families earning below a living wage than Whites. Latino families, for example, are five times as likely to earn less than a living wage than are Whites.