It’s no secret that raising a kid is an expensive endeavor but when you’re a single parent, making ends meet can seem downright impossible. To help highlight just how financially difficult being a single parent is, CNBC created a map which shows how much single parents in all 50 states need to be making in order to get by and spoiler: it’s even more pricey than you’re probably imagining.
To create the map, CNBC used MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, which determines the amount needed to meet basic needs without requiring outside help or dipping into poverty. The Living Wage Calculator, invented 15 years ago at MIT, seeks to add more nuance and accuracy to the poverty threshold approach. According to its official website, the living wage model draws upon geographically specific expenditure data on food, childcare, healthcare, housing, transportation, and other necessities to come up with a basic needs budget and adds the amount likely owed in taxes.
The cheapest state for a single parent with one child to live is Mississippi, where the pre-tax living wage for someone in that situation is just $43,828. In California, the most expensive state, the number is $62,871, or nearly $20,000 more per year.
States on the coasts, particularly the northeast, Florida, and every contiguous state on the Pacific, tend to have higher living wages while those in the middle — Texas, the Ohio Valley, and the Great Plains, for example — are less expensive.
Wary of repeating the mistakes of the federal government, MIT’s model is only meant to draw “a very fine line between the financial independence of the working poor and the need to seek out public assistance or suffer consistent and severe housing and food insecurity.” It’s not what one needs to be happy or fulfilled; it’s a minimum subsistence wage that reflects prices in different parts of the country.
MIT’s calculations go down to the county level, but comparing the states offers its own insights, as this map created by CNBC using MIT data demonstrates.
The federal government comes up with a number — $12,490 as of January — that it uses to decide if someone is poor or not. Beyond slightly different figures for Alaska and Hawaii, the only change in this number comes with household size. Every additional household member ups it by $4,420.
Beyond the fallacy of considering someone making $12,491 as not poor, this system only takes into account a basic food budget. That means huge, necessary expenses like childcare and health care aren’t considered. It also means that geographic disparities aren’t considered, as if the money you’d need to survive in San Francisco is the same as in Amarillo, Texas.
Take a look at the map for yourself to see how your state fared and take a deeper dive into the data by visiting CNBC’s rankings.