$58,000: The Price of Economic Security for an American Family

What does it take to make ends meet in the U.S.? If you're a household with two young children, meeting basic needs like housing, utilities and food requires a salary three times the federal poverty line and nearly four times the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

A single worker with two young children needs an annual income of $58,000, or $27 an hour, to attain economic stability, Motoko Rich writes in his review of a new study from the nonprofit group Wider Opportunities for Women.

Here's the striking graph from the New York Times:


what it takes to survive.png
If $27 an hour buys a family economic security in the U.S., consider that the average hourly wage across the economy sits just under $23 -- and it hasn't moved more than cent in 3 months.

The long end of the recession is backing up against a rapid global increase in food and energy costs, driven by the global recovery in demand. Flat salaries plus the rising cost of essential equals a summer of discontent for the U.S. consumer. Considering that food and transportation account for about 20% of the average family's costs, this represents another headwind blowing back the typical American family just as their home values have begun to stabilize at a new normal.


Economy-watchers can find more reason to worry when they peruse the BLS's survey of the fastest growing jobs in the next 10 years. Some of the fastest growing sectors -- especially in retail, food services and health care -- consistently pay way below the economic security line.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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