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A family of four needs to earn $88,615 a year to enjoy a modest existence in the greater Washington D.C. area.
That data comes from the family budget calculator recently updated by the Economic Policy Institute. It takes into account local costs in vital areas such as housing, food, child care, transportation, health care and other necessities.
The costs for the area, which includes D.C. and nearby communities in both Maryland and Virginia, are 40 percent higher than the national median of $63,000. New York City was the only metropolitan area with higher median annual outlays for a family of four at $93,502.
According to the EPI, this data underscores the inadequacy of existing measures of poverty, which use the cost of living on a national level and do not take into account regional variations.
"Our family budget calculations show that the real costs for families to live modest, not even middle class, lives are much higher than conventional estimates show, and for families living on minimum-wage jobs, it is virtually impossible to make ends meet," says Elise Gould, director of health policy research for the Economic Policy Institute.
The data from EPI echoes similar reports about the economic challenges of living in and near D.C. Earlier this year, a study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that minimum wage households would have to work at least three full-time jobs in order to pay fair market rent for the area.
This report is particularly relevant in light of the D.C. Council's decision to pass legislation requiring big box retailers like Walmart to pay a "living wage" of $12.50 an hour, a 50 percent increase over the city's existing minimum wage.
Walmart is threatening to withdraw plans for three of six planned stores in the District if the legislation is enacted.