Self-Sufficiency Standard


Additional years of data can be found in the Excel download.

Note: Error bars are used to indicate the error, or uncertainty, in a reported measurement.

2014 Median Household income data was calculated by inflating American Community Survey data with the Consumer Price Index for Western Urban Regions.

Why is this important?

The self-sufficiency standard is the income a family needs to make ends meet without extra income supports (e.g., public housing, food stamps, Medicaid, or child care) and without private or informal assistance (e.g., free babysitting from a relative or friend, shared housing, or food provided by churches or local food banks).[i] Formerly, self-sufficiency was assessed using the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which fails to recognize the reality and experiences of low-income families.[ii] Households not earning enough income to meet their basic needs must do without important services such as health care, adequate housing, and healthy food, but many families facing economic distress are routinely overlooked because they do not fall into the standard definition of "poor" as defined by the FPL. The self-sufficiency standard helps redefine our understanding of those not able to meet their basic needs by basing its calculations on a more comprehensive set of household expenses, which include food, child care, transportation, and taxes.


[i]D. Pearce, "Not Enough to Live On: Characteristics of Household below the Real Cost of Living in New Jersey," New Jersey Poverty Research Institute (2008).

[ii] E. Gowdy and S. Pearlmutter, "Economic Self-Sufficiency: It's Not Just Money," Affilia 8 (1993): 368-387.