The Self-Sufficiency Standard in Ohio

Report prepared for The Grail Women's Task Force, May 1999

The government's procedures for defining the poverty population have been criticized for many years. These criticisms make it difficult to determine a family's true standard of living, and the effectiveness of government policy in reducing poverty.

The self-sufficiency standard (SSS) uses innovative methodology to calculate the cost of living in a local area. Using data from federal and state sources for Ohio, the cost of rent, child-care, food, medical care, and transportation were calculated. These expenses plus taxes yields the minimum amount of income a family needs to live on without relying on public and private transfers.

For the state of Ohio, the SSS ranges from a low of $11,810 for a single adult to a high of $30,679 for a single parent with three preteen children in the household. For a two-parent family with two preschool-age children, the SSS is $26,515. Comparable figures in Butler County Ohio are $12,260 for a single adult, $34,706 for a single parent with three preteen children and $29,300 for a two-parent family with two preschool-age children.

The SSS is sensitive to the number and ages of children. When children are young, the SSS is higher, reflecting the burden of child-care expenses that must be paid in order for the parent to work. As children get older, child-care outlays decline, which reduces the SSS for families with teenage children.

The SSS ranges from 35% to 88% in excess of the poverty line for the typical Ohio family. In Butler County, Ohio, one family type (a single parent with three preteen children) had a SSS income that was more than twice as high as the poverty line.'

The trade and service sectors of Ohio's economy are projected to be the fastest growing sectors in the next decade. These industries are also likely to offer job opportunities to low-skill workers seeking to attain a self-sufficient income. It is noteworthy, then, that the SSS is higher than the average wage in these industries for families with the greatest child-care needs (i.e., those with two or more preteen children).

This report recommends increased child-care subsidies, non-traditional employment for women, and targeted training for high-wage jobs to increase the incomes of Ohio's citizens.