ECONOMY: Across Maryland, bare-bones household budgets soar above salaries

Money

ECONOMY • BY CAITLIN JOHNSTON and CARL STRAUMSHEIM, CNS Special Report

A Montgomery County family of three — an adult, a preschooler and a school-age child — needs about $78,000 just to make ends meet, a new report shows. And, without government assistance, minimum wage barely gets them a quarter of the way there.

The 2012 Self-Sufficiency Standard calculates the cost of living for Maryland families by looking at the price of such necessities as housing, food, transportation and child care. The report, prepared for the Maryland Community Action Partnership, found that median wages in Maryland have failed to keep up with the increasing costs of basic needs.

While those costs increased statewide by 54 percent since 2001, median earnings failed to rise accordingly, increasing only 25 percent.

The result: a real cost squeeze, said Dr. Diana Pearce, director of the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington School of Social Work, who conducted the study.

“People are working just as hard and more efficiently and more productively, but it’s not showing up in wages,” Pearce said. “And their costs are going up.”

“The report shows taxes and health care costs in particular are leading the cost increases, rising by more than 70 percent each.

This continues to add pressure to what Pearce calls the working poor — people whose jobs simply aren’t providing enough to meet basic needs.

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