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The Real Cost Measure in California 2018

Struggling to Stay Afloat: The Real Cost Measure in California 2018

Betsy Baum Block, Henry Gascon, Peter Manzo, and Adam D. Parker for United Ways of California

First published June 2018

United Ways of California is glad to release Struggling to Stay Afloat: The Real Cost Measure in California 2018, our new statewide report on financial challenges for working families.

Unlike the official poverty measure which does not accurately account for local costs of living, the Real Cost Measure factors the costs of housing, food, healthcare, childcare, transportation and other basic needs to determine what it really costs to live in California.

At the heart of the Real Cost Measure are household budgets. Household budgets are easy to understand as they speak to the realities families have to deal with every day: How much can I afford on school supplies for my children after my reduced work hours this summer? How do I replace my leaky roof when all my income has gone towards this month’s mortgage payment? How am I going to give my daughter medical attention when the transmission in our car is broken? Through our interactive household budgets tool, we have the ability to better understand the hardships households face based on the county they live in.

In addition to a full report, the Real Cost Measure in California features interactive household budgets that calculates basic needs up to 20 persons in a household for each of California’s 58 counties, interactive maps at the county and neighborhood level, one-page county profiles, a public dataset, and more.

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