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How Much Money Americans Need for Economic Security in Every State

1 out of 3 adults in the U.S. is economically insecure, meaning they don’t have the resources to provide for housing, food, transportation and childcare.

That is according to a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), an advocacy organization designed to promote research benefiting women and their families. We adapted data from the IWPR’s most recent report on economic security for single adults and two working adults with two small children two create two heat maps. The results indicate which states and regions are the hardest places for working Americans to get by, and how having children can put economic security increasingly out of reach.

Financial security is obviously much easier to achieve for single working adults than anyone else. There is literally only one mouth to feed. But that doesn’t mean that economic security is attainable for everyone across the country. There’s a clear cluster of states around the Northeast led by New York, where an adult would need at least $44,088 to get by. The situation across the Midwest is comparably much more manageable with only a couple in the middle band of expensive states. South Dakota is boasts the lowest threshold in the country at only $24,648.

Going to the other extreme, California ($42,060) stands out on the West Coast. Hawaii takes the cake as the most expensive state in the Union ($45,456), not counting Washington, DC ($50,508). In other words, if someone working in Washington, DC were to move to South Dakota but keep the same job, he or she would earn double the amount needed for minimal economic security.

The situation is a bit more complicated for two working parents with one infant and a preschooler. The Northeast remains prohibitively expensive with young parents in New York needing to earn an astonishing $101,496 just for economic security. The threshold for Washington, DC meanwhile jumps to $124,320. It’s the same story on the West Coast too, where working Californians with two children need to make $94,992.

But here’s the real story. Economic security becomes much harder to obtain in several other surprising states too, like Minnesota ($84,696), Colorado ($88,512) and even Montana ($70,224). In many of these places, economic security requires more than 3 times as much income for two parents with children as it does for single adults. If you get married and start having children, you better hope you also start getting huge raises at work too.

Another way to think about these maps is to understand them as proxies for the true cost of living around the country. Check out our interactive tool to learn more.

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