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Understanding The True Costs of Living in Colorado

// December 12, 2018

Grantee partner CCLP releases sixth edition of Self-Sufficiency Standard

Understanding the TRUE costs of living in Colorado for diverse family formations is critical to our work. Yesterday,  WAGES grantee partner Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) released the sixth edition of the Self-Sufficiency Standard, and accompanying reports Overlooked and Undercounted and Exploring Economic Security Pathways in Colorado.

The Hidden Poor

As the only statewide community foundation focused on women and their families, we have significantly funded the Self-Sufficiency Standard since the first report in 2001. We rely on the Standard to tell us what it costs to make ends meet in every county in Colorado while Overlooked and Undercounted tells us who is struggling, where they live, and the composition of their householdsA disproportionate number of Coloradans experiencing economic distress are single moms and people of color. Many of them live above the poverty line but below the Standard, which means they make too much to qualify for most work supports and are among the “hidden poor.”

From Self-Sufficiency to Security

In addition, it’s critical to our grantmaking and public policy work that we understand the best pathways to move women from economic self-sufficiency to security. That’s why The M&I Charitable Giving Fund, a donor-advised fund held at The Women’s Foundation, funded Exploring Economic Security Pathways in Colorado, a new report for our state in 2018, that builds upon the Standard.

What You Need to Know

Each report can be downloaded in its entirety. Here are the key facts we think you should know, whether as a community member, media member, policymaker, researcher, or nonprofit organization.

Self-Sufficiency Standard

  • It’s incredibly expensive to live in Colorado. More and more families are unable to meet their basic needs, such as food, housing, transportation, and healthcare.
  • The amount needed to meet the costs of basic needs increased in all Colorado counties between 2001-2018, while wages increased at a much slower rate.
    • In fact, a parent working full time and earning the 2018 Colorado minimum wage will fall short of meeting the Standard for a family with a child in every Colorado county. Only four of the top-10 most common occupations in the Denver Metro Area have median wages above the standard for a three-person family.
  • Closing the gap between current wages and the Self-Sufficiency Standard requires reducing costs (by increasing access to work supports) and raising incomes.
  • Use Colorado Center on Law and Policy’s interactive map to calculate the cost of living for families in your county.

Overlooked & Undercounted

  • More than one in four Colorado households (430,000 or 27%) lack enough income to cover just the necessities.
  • A significant portion of those living below the Standard work hard as part of the mainstream workforce, but their substantial work effort fails to yield sufficient income.
  • A key structural problem is that women and people of color experience significantly less return on education and work effort than white men.

Exploring Economic Security Pathways in Colorado

  • There are three primary elements in achieving economic security:
    1. Earn enough pay for the basic expenses of daily life.
    2. Build an emergency savings account.
    3. Pursue at least one of the following economic security pathways: post-secondary education, improved housing and home ownership, and savings for retirement.
  • All stakeholders – employers, the government, and the community – must play a role in helping to achieve economic security for all.

Join us at an upcoming presentation

The data in these reports represent the lives of real Coloradans trying to make their way out of some way in our community. To discover how members of your community are faring, join us at regional events in the coming months (dates TBD). We will offer localized presentations with CCLP in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Vail Valley, Northern Colorado, and Boulder.

Category: Research

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