American Family Budget Survey Shows Why Parents Get Forced Out of Cities

Cost of housing and child care are still big indicators of family migration patterns.

Economic Policy Institute

The Economic Policy Institute has recently updated its Family Budget Calculator in an attempt to discern the income a family needs to “attain a modest yet adequate standard of living.” The update is meant to give users some real insight into the sacrifices families might have to make to live in certain counties and why American families may face eviction in, or outright leave a certain city.

Close to three million Americans were evicted from their homes in 2015, and according to a report from Apartment List, about 3.7 million Americans have faced eviction in their lifetime. It should come as no surprise that in terms of housing, the cities with the most evictions tend to be the ones in which families have seen an increase in the amount of money they need to spend in order to pay rent. Based on a report from Next City, one of the cities that topped the list for an increase in the percentage of income spent on rent was Los Angeles, California.

Los Angeles saw an increase in their rent-to-income ratio of 5.8 percent between 2011 and 2014 and as a result, the number of evictions climbed 3.8 percent. Those statistics are consistent with the EPI’s Family Budget Map. According to the map, Los Angeles County, in terms of required family budget, requires the average family has just around $7,700 per month to make ends meet. While the overall cost of living in the county is high, it’s not among the highest, but when limited to housing costs, that distinction changes a great deal. Every month, the average family in Los Angeles County has to spend about $1,700 on housing alone, among the highest costs in the country.

Head up north and you’ll find that San Francisco is even more costly for families. The average family needs closer to $12,000 a month to get by, and housing constitutes about $3,000 of that. If parents require child care services, that will be almost another $1,700. When compared to the $56,000 median family income of most Americans, it makes sense that 50 percent of millennials (i.e. the next generation of parents) who live in the county are actually trying to leave.


Looking at the EPI’s findings outside of the West Coast, Denver County is pretty similar to Los Angeles County. The average family spends about $7,700 a month to live there, with an average child care cost of around $1,500 a month. While evictions in Denver have slowed since the 2008 recession, eviction rates are still very high due again due to a rising rent-to-income ratio. Denver County alone saw something in the ballpark of 8,000 evictions last year. The median home price in Denver was $487,974 in April of 2017. According to Corey Snipes, a software engineer and Denver native, he and his family are moving to Cleveland despite the fact that their home in Denver has doubled in value over the last five years. Wages in Denver County have yet to rise with the cost of living, and it’s driving a lot of families either eastward or out of the city entirely.

Cities even further east like New York City and Minneapolis, which have been historically expensive, still aren’t ideal grounds for a reasonably priced family life. In Minneapolis and NYC, the average monthly cost of adequately comfortable living for families is in the ballpark of $8,000 and $10,000 a month. In NYC, the cost of childcare is amongst the highest in the country, costing close to $3,000 a month.

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As New York City has become the poster child for the wiles of the U.S. gentrification that displaces families, popular cities like Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Denver have begun following its example. Ultimately, when families leave these cities, they’re driven primarily by the fact that wages are staying the same even as the cost of living begins to skyrocket. While a place like Denver or San Francisco may tout great schools, the cost of living is immense. Similarly, while NYC may be the capital of more industries than a person could count, being an overall smorgasbord of opportunity and all, according to PolitiFact, New York state has the “biggest outmigration of citizens of any state.” And that outmigration takes families with it.

Eviction rates, housing costs, and childcare costs all point to the fact that it’s becoming increasingly difficult or outright impossible for people to live in a lot of popular cities while also balancing the cost of having a family.

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