Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health      

kidsdata advisory

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health | October 4, 2011

What It Costs to Make Ends Meet for CA Families:
Local 2011 Self-Sufficiency Data Now Available

Census data indicate that family income has been declining in California, yet data released today show that the costs to meet basic needs increased from 2008 to 2011 for many types of families statewide.

These data, called self-sufficiency standards, have just been posted to for three common family types. The measure shows what it costs for a family to make ends meet by factoring in housing, child care, food, health insurance, and transportation costs, as well as long-term needs (savings, emergency expenses, major purchases, etc.).

The data come from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and the School of Social Work at the University of Washington.

Self-Sufficiency Data for Your County

Facts & Trends in California

  • In all California counties, the self-sufficiency standard for 2-adult, 1-child families rose between '08 and '11. For those data available through, the largest self-sufficiency increases from '08 to '11 were in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties (a 21% rise for each county), followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles counties (19%) and Fresno and Kern counties (18%).

  • Self-sufficiency standards across California are higher for two-adult families with an infant than for two-adult families with a school-age child or a teenager. Self-sufficiency standards for two adults and an infant range from $41,611 in Tulare County to $76,588 in Marin County.

  • Between '08 and '11, self-sufficiency levels for families with two adults and a school-age child rose an average of 10% across California counties.

Why Self-Sufficiency Data Are Important

Alongside measures of median family income/poverty and free/reduced price school meals, self-sufficiency estimates help round out the picture of family economics in California.

The self-sufficiency standard takes into account a range of costs that a family faces on a daily basis, as well as household composition and county-level variations in costs. Recognizing that the federal poverty level is not adjusted for locale, the self-sufficiency standard shows that California families may earn more than the poverty level and still struggle to make ends meet.

These data also indicate that families in areas where the cost of living is high may be in need of, but not eligible for, government assistance. Therefore, the self-sufficiency standard helps local entities obtain a more accurate assessment of the financial needs facing families in their communities.

Tell Your Friends and Colleagues

Those who work to improve the health and well being of children often require assistance in making their case. As a foundation devoted to bringing attention to key children's health issues, we want to make sharing up-to-date, reliable data as easy as possible. Please forward this announcement to your friends and colleagues who work on behalf of kids.

Note: The self-sufficiency data in this advisory come from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and Dr. Diana Pearce, Center for Women's Welfare, School of Social Work, University of Washington. For more information, see Mascot
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The cost of meeting basic needs is highest for a family living in the Bay Area, followed by counties on the southern coast of California. Mascots is a program of the Lucile Packard Foundation of Children's Health, which uses data to promote the health and well being of children.
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