City Paper is not for tourists
If you’re part of a couple residing in D.C. with no kids, you can expect to pay around $4,362 a month on living expenses—or $52,347 annually—according to an online tool released today.
The Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in D.C., has published an updated version of its family-budget calculator that shows the expenses needed to achieve “secure yet modest” living in 618 metro areas across the United States. The tool accounts for seven types of costs: housing, food, childcare, transportation, healthcare, other necessities, and taxes. D.C. has replaced New York City as the most expensive place to raise a two-child family, EPI finds; annually, such a family can expect to pay $106,493 to live in D.C., and $98,722 in New York.
“We’re seeing what it means to ‘get by,’” says Elise Gould, a senior economist and director of health-policy research at EPI. “It’s not poverty, but it’s not a middle-class lifestyle either. You’re making ends meet—if you lose a job or have a negative healthcare event, you can be insecure.”
To obtain specific cost figures, EPI gathered data from mostly government sources, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture, and the Internal Revenue Service. Gould says childcare was more expensive than housing in many cities—a fact that may surprise people who use the calculator. In the District, for example, the monthly housing cost for a two-adult, two-children family was $1,469 (based on the price of a two-bedroom apartment), while the monthly childcare cost for the same was $2,597: more than $1,000 more expensive. These figures are roughly 29 and 17 percent, respectively, of such a family’s total living costs.
Gould says this version of the EPI tool includes cost figures for single and married people who don’t have kids, which wasn’t the case for past iterations. The researchers have also included “a more realistic bundle of goods for what people need,” such as cell phone bills and furnishings. These “other necessities” aren’t negligible: A kid-less couple in D.C. will pay more than $10,000 for them annually, while a single adult with no children will spend around $8,386 on them annually.
Though the EPI doesn’t have specific policies to recommend in releasing the calculator, Gould says there “could be a role for government” in alleviating the burden of living costs for families. (On a related note, a recent report from Harvard found that 46 percent of D.C.-metro-area renters are “burdened” by housing costs, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.)
“Generally I would say what’s important is to use all the tools in the toolbox,” Gould explains. “If we can’t help people make ends meet, we need to be using subsidies in other ways.”
Here is a breakdown of EPI’s monthly budgets for D.C. based on household type.
Screenshots via the Economic Policy Institute