The March 2018 Edition of the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator

Publication Date: 
March 6, 2018

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Download Tables 1 to 10 in excel

Download Map 1 and Map 2

On March 6th, 2018 the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a new edition of their Family Budget Calculator ( The calculator measures the income a family needs to attain a modest but adequate standard of living. This year the calculator includes county-specific living costs (including local estimates of major items like food, housing, and child care) for 10 family types (one or two adults with zero to four children). 

A detailed technical appendix ( is available from EPI which explains the methods and sources for each estimate of the costs in a family budget.

For ease of reference and convenience this policy watch has extracted data for the 10 family types (see Tables 1 – 10 beginning on page 4 of this policy watch) for each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties (metro level data is also available online).  

The Family Budget Calculator is a powerful reminder that many working people from all over the commonwealth do not earn enough to make ends meet.  At $7.25 per hour a full-time, full-year worker in Pennsylvania would make $15,080 per year. As Map 1 on the next page illustrates this income is well less than half of the modest budget in every county in Pennsylvania. In Map 2 on page 3 of this policy brief we present the same comparison for an annual income at $15 per hour.  In many parts of the commonwealth, especially in the west, a $15 per hour minimum wage would place single adults within reach (90% or more) of a modest family budget. Particularly as you move east, however, even a $15 per hour minimum wage only puts a worker within 75% to 80% of a modest family budget. The pattern in Map 2 illustrates clearly the need for local communities to have the flexibility to establish higher minimum wages than Pennsylvania as a whole when those communities have a higher cost of living.  As current law in Pennsylvania prohibits local communities from establishing minimum wages higher than the state minimum of $7.25 policy makers should consider both increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 but also granting the power to local communities to set a higher standard.


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