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How Much Does it Really Cost to Live in California?

Includes interactive infographic

California’s statewide minimum wage is $8/hour. But in order to pay for basic living expenses, a single California resident with no children actually needs to make more like $11.20/hour. This is an estimate of what’s called a living wage.

Below are estimates of how much each adult in various-sized households needs to make in order to pay for basic monthly living expenses (with amounts based on statewide averages). These figures, and living wage calculations in general, are averages. The actual cost of things in California, of course, varies significantly, by region. Whereas rent in, say Stockton, might be lower than the average shown here, San Francisco’s average rent is, well, fuggedaboutit!

All estimates below are taken from a Living Wage Calculator created by Amy K. Glasmeier, a professor of urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Using the most updated government data, the calculator estimates average living wage expenses for every state and every county in the country (methodology explained beneath the chart).

Methodology (as explained by MIT’s¬†Glasmeier):

“The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location … The¬†tool is designed to provide a minimum estimate of the cost of living for low wage families. The estimates do not reflect a middle class standard of living. The realism of the estimates depend on the type of community under study. Metropolitan counties are typically locations of high cost. In such cases, the calculator is likely to underestimate costs such as housing and child care. Consider the results a minimum cost threshold that serves as a benchmark, but only that. Users can substitute local data when available to generate more nuanced estimates. Adjustments to account for local conditions will provide greater realism and potentially increase the accuracy of the tool. As developed, the tool is meant to provide one perspective on the cost of living in America.”