Forget Subsisting at Poverty Level — What’s a Decent Life in Dallas Cost?

More than minimum wage pays, for sure.

Over on real estate blog Candy’s Dirt, Jon Anderson spent some time with a Family Budget Calculator recently updated by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank. It uses market-specific date to estimate the income necessary for living in various cities not just at the subsistence level of the federal poverty line ($24,250 for a family of four) but at a standard of living that most of us would consider a bare minimum to, as Anderson puts it, “live like a human” with (according to EPI’s guidelines) “structurally safe, and sanitary rental housing of a modest nature with suitable amenities,” “nutritionally adequate diets,” as well as adequate health care coverage and meeting transportation needs.

Those numbers:

$5,096 monthly ($61,150) for a two-parent, two-child household

$4,458 monthly ($53,492) for a single-parent, two-child household

You can adjust the calculator to see other household arrangements as well, but the bottom line is that minimum-wage work doesn’t come anywhere near these levels. Even the median household income in Dallas County is just $49,481, with 19.5 percent of people living below the poverty line. Anderson notes:

To top it off, what all of these numbers miss are savings – emergency funds, college funds, retirement funds. The results are families living at best paycheck-to-paycheck and probably a paycheck or two behind. (Payday and title loans with usurious interest rates up to 730 percent were designed to suck the life out of people like this.) It means kids know college is impossible without full-boat scholarships so many don’t even try. It equates to parents ill-equipped to teach their children how to break the poverty cycle. It means parents face a no-retirement retirement working until their last breath. A rosy picture for none and a recipe for the multi-generational poverty that exists today.

And heaven forbid you fall off the track and become homeless. Without access to simple things like bathing facilities, clean clothes and all the trappings of “work,” maintaining a job or, if unemployment led to the homelessness, makes successful interviewing unimaginably hard. And saving to get the money needed for security deposits and such to get back into housing is arduous. The toll this takes on children is unimaginable.

The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour / $290 per week / $15,080 per year assuming no vacation or holiday’s off (at this rate, who could afford a holiday?). It’s also hourly, grinding work that’s at once critical and valueless.

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