Skip to main content

Seattle’s cost of living is more complicated than you think

Published on January 17, 2023

Families enjoying Green Lake Park in Seattle
Image Credit: Seattle Parks and Recreation (CC BY 2.0)

How much money does a family of four need to live in Seattle without financial assistance? The cheeky answer: about $2,000 more than they have at the moment. The real answer: crucially dependent, especially for those who make the least, on who you ask.

Statistical sticklers might point to the Department of Health and Human Service’s federal poverty guideline. In 2023, HHS assigned $30,000 for a four-person household in the contiguous United States. That number is laugh-until-you-cry low, yet it’s the eligibility benchmark that a host of government programs hinge upon. Food stamps and free school lunches. Community health centers and children’s health insurance. Head Start and Job Corps. Each calculating whether someone qualifies for help based on a percentage multiple of that scrape-the-bottom minimum.

Naturally, there are detractors. “It’s just too low,” says Lisa Manzer, director of the University of Washington’s Center for Women’s Welfare. “It doesn’t provide a definition of what families would need.” Her version of an answer, however, does—right down to the penny.

According to something called the Self-Sufficiency Standard, the magic number for a family of four in 2020 is $86,192.61. More specifically, that’s two adults, a preschooler, and a school-age child living in Seattle proper. For two adults and two infants it’s $104,543.12. If those kids were teenagers, $55,340.01. The wildly different sums reflect the wildly different needs modern families have, Manzer says. It just took three decades to figure out.

Continue reading at Seattle Met.

Originally written by Angela Cabotaje for Seattle Met.
Search by categories

Twitter Feed