As the labor market continues to change, more and more families struggle to stretch their wages to meet the costs of basic necessities. Though these families are often not deemed “poor” by the official poverty measure, they lack enough income to meet the rising costs of food, housing, transportation, health care, and other essentials. The Self-Sufficiency Standard for North Carolina 2017 tracks the true cost of living facing North Carolina families today. It highlights the growing gap between sluggish wages and ever-increasing expenses, clearly illuminating the economic “crunch” experienced by so many families today. By tracking and calculating the true cost of living facing American families, the Standard allows for comparisons of geographic differences as well as documentation of historical trends.
The Self-Sufficiency Standard for North Carolina 2017 defines the amount of income necessary to meet the basic needs of North Carolina families, differentiated by family type and where they live. The Standard calculates the costs of six basic needs plus taxes and tax credits. It assumes the full cost of each need, without help from public subsidies (public housing, Medicaid, or child care assistance) or private/informal assistance (unpaid babysitting by a relative or friend, food from food banks, or shared housing). More than 700 family compositions for each of NC’s 100 counties are calculated.
Economic security not only requires the ability to secure the costs of daily basic needs, but also creating an emergency savings fund and choosing the appropriate asset-building pathway. The Self-Sufficiency Standard Report for North Carolina 2017 addresses the first two elements. Its companion report The Economic Security Pathways Report focuses on the third element of asset-building.
United Way of North Carolina supported the development of the Self-Sufficiency Standard for North Carolina 2017 to ensure the best data and analyses are available to enable North Carolina’s families and individuals to make progress toward real economic security. Local United Ways in North Carolina are addressing community problems, many through collaborative efforts with government, business, and other nonprofit organizations. Their hands on approach is leading to neighborhood engagement where self-defined strategies for improvement spurs a family’s upward mobility. The Self-Sufficiency Standard will help local United Ways and their partners build a case for collaborative strategies that will meet community challenges and create lasting change.