'Enough to get by' depends on where you live in the U.S

Wed Jul 3, 2013 10:19am EDT
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By Paige Gance

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It costs almost twice as much to live in New York City as it does in Marshall County, Mississippi, according to figures published Wednesday by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.

The median cost of modest living for an American family of four in the United States can be found in Newaygo County, Michigan, where $63,000 covers food, transportation, housing, child care, healthcare and taxes - but no extras such as vacations, eating out, or savings.

In New York the same lifestyle costs $93,500 and in Mississippi it can be had for $48,000.

"It's surprising to a lot of people just how much it costs to live," said Elise Gould, one of the researchers who compiled data for the policy group. EPI used data from 615 communities to update its online budget calculator (www.epi.org/resources/budget/)

Most of the household budgets identified by the EPI far exceed the 2013 official poverty line of about $23,500 for a family of four, though by varying amounts.

"There is an acknowledgement that the official poverty measure is inadequate," said Gould.

Many government benefit programs, including subsidies in the new healthcare law, are pegged to the poverty line, which is the same in all states except Alaska and Hawaii, even though regional differences in living expenses vary wildly.

The Census Bureau issued a Supplemental Poverty Measure in 2011 that varied geographically by housing costs, but many government welfare policies are still based on the official threshold.   Continued...

People shop at high-end retail stores along 5th Avenue in New York May 19, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer