Descriptive Title: Cost of living by family type over time

Geographic Unit of Analysis: County

Why Is This An Indicator Of Health and Sustainability?

Income is one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of health and disease in the public health research literature. Nationally, individuals with average family incomes of $15-20,000 are three times more likely to die prematurely as those with family incomes greater than $70,000.a Low income is also a risk factor for low birth weight babies, for suffering injuries or violence, for getting most cancers, and for getting most chronic conditions. The relationship between income and health is mediated though nutrition, employment conditions, parenting resources, leisure and recreation, housing adequacy, and neighborhood environmental quality, community violence, and stress.b,c,d,e,f

In the epidemiological literature, neighborhood deprivation is commonly measured by a combination of neighborhood unemployment, income, education, and social class. Numerous large-scale studies have found that neighborhood deprivation is associated with increased risk of physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, smoking and obesity. Additionally, increased neighborhood deprivation significantly predicts poor self-reported health, cardiovascular disease and death. The fact that these relationships are still significant regardless of individual attributes suggests that the neighborhood context influences both individual health behaviors and health outcomes.g

Interpretation and Geographic Equity Analysis

This indicator shows the average costs of basic needs for four family types and the wages needed for meeting those basic needs as defined by the self-sufficiency standard.  The self-sufficiency standard is an alternative to the federal poverty level (FPL) for measuring income adequacy. Unlike the federal poverty measures, the self-sufficiency standard demonstrates how much income is needed for a family of a certain composition in a given place to adequately meet its minimal basic needs. In contrast, the FPL does not vary by the local cost of living, and relies on outdated assumptions that food represents one-third of a family's budget. For a family of four—whether in a high cost market like San Francisco, CA or a more affordable market like Baton Rouge, LA—the poverty line is $22,350 in annual household earnings.

According to the Insight Center for Community Economic development, the 2011 San Francisco self-sufficiency standard wage was $14.34 per hour for an adult, $29.87 for an adult with an infant, $29.46 for an adult with a preschooler, $34.73 for an adult with a preschooler and one school age child, $55.68 for an adult with an infant, a preschooler and a school age child, $16.05 per adult for two adults and an infant, $21.66 per adult for two adults with an infant and a preschooler, and $18.08 per adult for two adults with a preschooler and a school age child. For additional calculations based on family types of up to four adults and eight children, visit: 

Between 1996 and 2011, the costs of housing, childcare, food, health care and taxes roughly doubled in San Francisco.   Although as of 2012, San Francisco has the highest minimum wage in the nation ($10.24/hr), the minimum wage is not sufficient to meet all of one’s basic needs necessary for self-sufficiency, even for a single adult without any dependents.

The graphs above illustrate the self-sufficiency wages needed at five time periods (1996, 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2011) and for each of the seven main categories identified by INSIGHT as needed for self-sufficiency (housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, taxes, and miscellaneous items) for four family types (1 Adult; 1 Adult + 1 Preschooler; 1 Adult, 1 Preschooler + 1 School Age Child; and 2 Adults, 1 Preschooler + 1 School Age Child).  


Self-sufficiency wage and estimated living costs were obtained from Insight Center for Community Economic Development.  Specifically, data is from their 1996, 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2011 reports on Self-Sufficiency  wages in California and San Francisco.  The four family types presented are the ones for which data was available for all five time periods.

Data Source

Self-sufficiency wages and estimates obtained from Insight Center for Community Economic Development.  Most current data available at:

Historical minimum wage rates obtained from the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (; California Department of Industrial Relations (; and the United States Department of Labor (

Charts and table recreated by San Francisco Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Section.