The level of income needed for households of different sizes and types in a region to be able to pay for necessities including housing and food without outside assistance.
The level of income needed to afford basic expenses often exceeds the minimum wage, forcing the working poor to work multiple jobs or seek public assistance to make ends meet. Understanding the true level of income required to cover housing, food, clothing, child care, transportation and medical expenses provides a more accurate benchmark for assessing the jobs available in a region or local area. The living wage also adjusts for regional variation in costs.
In Essex County in 2021, a family of four with two earners would each need to earn just about $32 an hour, or about $133,300 a year combined, in order to meet the living wage level. A family of three with one earner needs an hourly wage of $58 to earn $120,800 a year to make ends meet. Two earners with no dependents must earn $16 an hour or $68,200 combined. Essex County was slightly more expensive than the state as a whole.
Living wage figures for Essex County were similar to Middlesex, MA and Westchester, NY but above the wages needed in Lake, IL. A family of four with two earners would need an annual income about $105,600 in Lake, IL, for example.
Figures are in 2021 dollars and assume a 40-hour work week. The living wage model is an alternative measure of basic needs. It is a market-based approach that draws upon geographically specific expenditure data related to a family's likely minimum food, child care, health insurance, housing, transportation, and other basic necessities (e.g. clothing, personal care items, etc.) costs. More information on the sources of data for costs is available at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.