What’s the cost of staying alive?

Herald Staff Writer

Thousands of fast-food workers in 50 cities across the country went on strike Thursday in an effort to get their wages increased to $15 per hour. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25.

Proponents have discussed the need for the increase, stating that the cost of living necessitates it. Opponents call the request extreme.

Is it extreme? How much does it cost a person to take care of a household?

The Indiana Institute for Working Families has on its website a self-sufficiency standard calculator that can be used to tally how much an Indiana household needs to earn to be self-sufficient, without public or private assistance. The calculator is adjusted by county, the number of adults in the house (one or two), the number of children (up to three) and their ages.

The ages of children are broken into four categories: infants, who are 2 or younger; preschoolers, ages 3 to 5; school-age children, ages 6 to 12; and teenagers, ages 13 to 18.

According to the calculator, a single person living in Dubois County with no dependents would need to earn $7.48 per hour, based on a 40-hour workweek. Two Dubois County adults with no children would need to earn $5.97 per hour each to cover their monthly household expenses of $2,169.
If a household has children, the expenses, and thus income needs, would increase.

Adding one school-age child would increase a single adult’s self-sufficiency wage to $12.01 per hour. For three children, the person needs to make $22.13 per hour to take care of them and the household’s $4,279 in monthly expenses, which includes $1,159 in child care costs.

A couple with three school-age children would each have to earn $12.38 per hour to cover the monthly household expenses of $4,774.

According to the Indiana Institute, food and health care costs for young children is lower than for schoolchildren and teenagers. But the cost of child care increases for children yet not in school.
Based on the U.S. Census’ estimated 2011 calculations, the most recent the agency has compiled for counties, the average family size for Dubois and Spencer counties is three people; it does not specify if that is two adults and a child or one adult and two children.

If the makeup is a single person with two school-age children, a Dubois County resident would need to earn $15.38 per hour to cover the household’s monthly expenses of $3,172.

It would be expected that counties that have bigger cities would have more costly expenses. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Marion County includes the state’s biggest city, Indianapolis. A single resident with two kids in that county would need to make $17.01 per hour to sustain the $3,398 in monthly expenses for the two-children family. But the same person in Spencer County would need to earn $17.06 per hour to take care of two school-age children and the $3,404 in monthly expenses.

The Indiana Institute for Working Families is a program under the Indiana Community Action Association, a statewide not-for-profit organization comprised of Indiana’s 23 community action agencies that serve the state’s 92 counties. Dubois County’s community action agency is Tri-Cap.

Online: www.indianaselfsufficiencystandard.org/calculator

Contact Candy Neal at cneal@dcherald.com.

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