According to an updated calculator released today by think tank Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a single parent with two kids needs $64,170 annually to achieve a "modest but adequate" standard of living in Orleans Parish.
EPI's "Family Budget Calculator" has been newly expanded to include cost-of-living information for U.S. counties, parishes and metropolitan statistical areas. It provides estimates on such expenses as housing, child care, transportation, taxes and other essentials for families with one or two parents and up to four children.
For a family with one parent and two children in Orleans Parish, the organization estimates housing costs at $12,016 annually (about $1,000 per month). Child care costs are estimated at $10,093 and transportation is almost as expensive, at $9,808. The least expensive major expenditure is food, which EPI calculates will cost that same family $7,506 per year (about $625 per month). Expenses for health care, taxes and "other necessities" add up to $64,170.
Median household income in New Orleans is $37,488, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
There's not a great deal of variance in the numbers between Orleans Parish and the New Orleans-Metairie area, but there are some surprises when comparing EPI's findings from surrounding parishes. Both health care and transportation appear more expensive in St. Bernard Parish as compared to Orleans Parish; in this calculator St. Tammany Parish has comparable housing costs but higher transportation expenses. Of seven nearby parishes in this analysis, none features a cost of living less than $60,000 for this type of family.
Compared to the closest comparably-sized metropolitan areas, life for the same three-person family is slightly less expensive in New Orleans and Metairie than in others. In the Richmond, Virginia area the same lifestyle requires $73,717 annually. (The big difference is child care, which is roughly 50 percent more expensive in that area.) The Hartford, Connecticut metro area also features significantly higher child care costs, requiring $80,220 annually.
The nation's most expensive metro area is San Francisco, where an adult with two children needs $137,213 to live comfortably. The least expensive is the Brownsville, Texas area, where the same family would need $50,656 to to maintain the same standard of living.
The data in this calculator is derived from a variety of sources, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Highway Administration and other governmental sources. Child care data is drawn from a publication by Child Care Aware of America. You can read more about the calculator's methodology here.
In a news release announcing this update, EPI noted that this information does not include several expenses that often are part of a lifestyle considered middle-class, including saving for college or retirement and paying down student loans.
The tool is intended to give a more accurate picture of the financial realities of working families outside of the federal poverty designations.