New CBP Report Looks at What It Takes to Make Ends Meets Across California

Many families across California struggle to cover the costs of housing, child care, and other necessities, according to a new CBP study released today. This analysis underscores the need for targeted public policies that help boost workers’ earnings and that help Californians pay rent or buy a home, afford child care, and cover other basic family costs.

Making Ends Meet: How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Family in California? looks at the income needed to support a family with two children or to live as a single adult in California, allowing only for basic expenses: housing and utilities, child care, health care, food, transportation, and other necessities.

The CBP’s analysis finds that for a California family of four with two children and one working parent, it would take — on average — an annual income of $60,771 to afford a modest standard of living. This is equal to an hourly wage of $29.22 for full-time work, which far exceeds the statewide median hourly wage of $19.07 in 2012 and is well above the state minimum wage.

As part of this report, the CBP has launched an online family budget calculator that presents estimated budgets for four family types in all 58 counties. Also available online are fact sheets that provide the estimated family budgets by county and at the state level.

Making Ends Meet highlights some of the specific economic challenges faced by California families. These include:

  • A lack of affordable housing in California. High housing costs in California present a major hurdle for many individuals and families. In 2012, nearly one-third of households (30.5 percent) spent at least half of their income on rent. In addition, from 2010 to 2012, California’s homeownership rate was the second-lowest of all states, averaging 54.9 percent.
  • High child care costs. The CBP’s analysis estimates that child care costs in California average more than $1,100 a month for families with two children. State policymakers have cut support for child care and state preschool in recent years. Between 2007-08 and 2013-14, combined funding for California’s child care and state preschool programs fell by nearly 40 percent, after adjusting for inflation, resulting in the loss of 110,000 funded “slots” in these programs.
  • Rising family health care costs — which implementation of federal health care reform will help address. The cost of health coverage has risen sharply over the last decade in California — increasing at roughly five times the rate of inflation between 2002 and 2012. Statewide, the monthly cost of health care — including insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs — averages nearly $500 for an individual and slightly more than $1,400 for a two-parent family with two children, according to CBP estimates. In many California counties, health care costs are the largest single expenditure in the basic family budget. Beginning next year, subsidies provided by the federal Affordable Care Act will lower insurance costs for certain families who purchase their own health coverage.

The Making Ends Meet report — including the online family budget calculator — is available at

— Steven Bliss

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