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America's Low-Cost Counties

What does the Federal Poverty Line represent, when the least expensive counties in the United States have a bare-bones cost of living that is well above that line?

This table lists the Self-Sufficiency Standard — that is, a barebones, no-frills, basic needs budget — for several configurations of family, for one to three low cost-of-living counties per state, from the Self Sufficiency Standard studies — and the Federal Poverty Rate. Here are a few observations:

  • The lowest-cost place costs 26% more than the Federal Poverty Guideline for a single adult
  • The SSS as a percent of the FPG rises as one moves from single adult to adult and one child, to adult and two children to two adults and two children, even in these low-cost places
  • Most of the low-cost places are rural counties with low populations and low densities. The exceptions are the cities of St. Louis, New Orleans, Hartford, Worcester and Springfield.
  • Many of these low-cost places have Federal Poverty Rates well above the national average, and yet the "SSS % FPG" calculations show that there is significant need over and above that acknowledged by the FPG in these low-cost places.
America's Low-Cost Counties: The Self-Sufficiency Standard and the Federal Poverty Guideline
This table shows selected counties from Table SSS-1-2-3-4. The counties are among the lowest-cost places to live in each state. The year shown is the year in which the Self-Sufficiency Standard Study for that state was done, and the "% FPG" calculations are to the Federal Poverty Guidelines, by household size, for that year.
State
County
Year
Single
Adult
SSS %
FPG
Adult +
Pre-schooler
SSS %
FPG
Adult,
Pre-schooler,
Schoolage
SSS %
FPG
Two Adults,
Pre-schooler,
Schoolage
SSS %
FPG
Federal Poverty
Rate, 2004
NY Clinton 2000
$13,248
159%
$23,256
207%
$28,968
205%
$35,412
208%
13.9%
SD Spink 2000
11,326
136%
18,024
160%
24,672
174%
30,996
182%
12.8%
  Todd 2000
11,328
136%
17,184
153%
23,556
166%
29,832
175%
48.3%
CA Trinity 2000
13,332
160%
22,594
201%
27,893
197%
34,703
204%
18.7%
  Tulare 2000
13,505
162%
21,810
194%
28,066
198%
35,126
206%
23.9%
IL Brown 2001
12,223
142%
18,515
159%
31,901
181%
8.5%
  Edgar 2001
11,667
136%
17,906
154%
31,019
176%
10.5%
KY Knott 2001
13,328
155%
21,307
184%
28,039
192%
35,731
202%
31.1%
  Calloway 2001
12,781
149%
20,949
180%
27,719
189%
35,452
201%
16.6%
MD Kent 2001
16,459
192%
24,563
212%
26,712
183%
35,532
201%
13.0%
  Allegany 2001
16,159
188%
22,966
198%
27,819
190%
36,402
206%
14.8%
UT Sevier 2001
14,773
172%
24,048
207%
29,619
202%
37,456
212%
10.8%
  Emery 2001
14,807
172%
34,600
196%
11.5%
WA Chelan 2001
13,158
153%
22,931
272%
26,489
181%
33,374
189%
12.4%
  Douglas 2001
13,364
156%
21,809
234%
32,129
182%
14.4%
AZ Apache 2002
14,168
160%
24,219
202%
29,829
199%
37,171
205%
37.8%
  La Paz 2002
14,296
161%
23,253
195%
29,024
193%
36,596
202%
19.6%
FL Leon 2002
14,821
167%
25,240
211%
31,400
209%
37,476
207%
18.2%
GA Hancock 2002
14,036
158%
20,292
170%
23,087
154%
32,242
178%
29.4%
  Floyd 2002
14,254
161%
22,215
186%
26,249
175%
34,550
191%
14.4%
MO Bates 2002
11,412
129%
16,423
138%
20,663
138%
28,020
155%
14.5%
  City of St. Louis 2002
12,072
136%
23,275
195%
30,177
201%
33,551
185%
24.6%
  Washington 2002
12,567
142%
16,993
142%
20,761
138%
28,150
156%
20.8%
MT Dawson 2002
13,017
147%
20,852
175%
25,475
170%
33,100
183%
14.9%
  Rosebud 2002
12,693
143%
21,310
178%
26,230
175%
33,804
187%
22.4%
NE Colfax 2002
11,983
135%
16,069
135%
20,970
140%
28,576
158%
10.8%
  Scotts Bluff 2002
12,065
136%
17,093
143%
22,610
151%
30,691
170%
14.5%
NV Elko 2002
15,702
177%
25,402
213%
28,954
193%
36,210
200%
8.9%
NJ Camden 2002
15,745
177%
28,623
240%
34,898
232%
38,252
211%
10.4%
OK Adair 2002
12,770
144%
18,857
158%
22,432
149%
32,425
179%
23.2%
  Texas 2002
12,759
144%
20,691
173%
25,167
168%
34,275
189%
14.1%
TN Cocke 2002
12,031
136%
18,401
154%
23,091
154%
31,768
176%
22.5%
  Hardeman 2002
12,333
139%
17,906
150%
21,657
144%
29,962
166%
19.7%
VA City of Roanoke 2002
13,831
156%
20,393
171%
23,469
156%
32,746
181%
15.9%
  Washington 2002
13,905
157%
18,214
153%
20,692
138%
29,818
165%
10.9%
AL Cherokee 2003
12,658
141%
17,881
148%
21,071
138%
28,153
153%
15.6%
  Wilcox 2003
12,646
141%
17,422
144%
20,810
136%
29,312
159%
39.9%
CA Shasta 2003
15,316
171%
25,579
211%
29,551
194%
36,218
197%
15.4%
  Tulare 2003
14,394
160%
23,061
190%
28,290
185%
34,736
189%
23.9%
MA City of Springfield 2003
15,304
170%
31,471
260%
36,603
240%
42,844
233%
23.1%
  City of North Adams 2003
14,583
162%
29,744
245%
34,875
229%
40,909
222%
9.5%
DE Sussex 2003
14,424
161%
23,303
192%
27,638
181%
34,666
188%
10.5%
LA Orleans Parish 2003
16,847
147%
21,810
180%
26,610
174%
30,101
164%
27.9%
  East Carrol Parish 2003
12,224
136%
18,402
152%
23,579
155%
30,113
164%
40.5%
  Caddo Parish 2003
13,998
156%
20,745
171%
25,277
166%
31,942
174%
21.1%
MS Sunflower 2003
12,929
144%
18,115
149%
21,730
142%
29,206
159%
30.0%
  Itawamba 2003
13,075
146%
17,524
153%
22,024
144%
29,548
161%
14.0%
CO Pueblo 2004
15,477
166%
23,736
190%
29,884
191%
36,965
196%
14.9%
  Alamosa 2004
14,551
156%
21,075
169%
28,266
180%
35,463
188%
21.3%
PA Warren 2004
13,595
146%
20,755
166%
25,647
164%
32,654
173%
9.9%
  Clearfield 2004
13,579
145%
21,252
170%
31,416
167%
12.5%
WI Ashland 2004
12,014
129%
21,299
171%
27,779
177%
34,797
185%
11.9%
  Adams 2004
11,774
126%
23,341
149%
28,741
152%
10.4%
WY Carbon 2004
12,371
133%
20,008
160%
24,282
155%
31,168
165%
12.9%
  Niobara 2004
12,509
134%
20,537
164%
25,348
162%
31,990
170%
13.4%
CT Hartford 2005
14,792
155%
33,545
261%
44,628
277%
47,499
245%
30.6%
IN Orange 2005
13,375
140%
18,681
146%
20,452
127%
28,304
146%
12.4%
  Fulton 2005
14,925
156%
20,133
157%
23,737
148%
32,368
167%
7.6%
NJ Atlantic 2005
16,803
176%
29,732
232%
36,547
227%
41,350
214%
10.5%
  Camden 2005
16,884
176%
30,312
236%
37,374
232%
42,136
218%
10.4%
WV Fayette 2005
13,820
144%
20,057
156%
23,901
149%
32,594
168%
21.7%
  Marshall 2005
13,327
139%
20,046
156%
24,321
151%
33,160
171%
16.6%
 VA City of Roanoke  2006
14,534
148%
26,213
199%
29,435
177%
36,778
184%
  Washington County, VA 2006
14,819
151%
21,903
166%
24,554
148%
32,359
162%
 
PA Lycoming 2006
11,602
118%
17,518
133%
24,009
145%
27,885
139%
 
  Warren 2006
15,087
154%
24,864
188%
30,269
182%
38,148
191%
 
                       
Average    
     
The gaps in this table are due to certain configurations of families not being provided in the appendices of the original studies, the links for which are available here.

 

Here's something to think about. Suppose that some major portion of the retiring Baby Boom generation finds itself unable to afford to stay in the towns they are currently living and working in. Not only can they not afford to stay in the house whose home equity they have been borrowing against instead of paying off their mortgage in anticipation of retirement, but they cannot afford a more modest home nearby either, because most of the cost of a property there is in the land value rather than the house itself. And the apartment rents in those places tend to be higher too, so renting there may not be within their budget.

So they'll take their home equity, whatever is available after paying off their refinanced mortgages, and set off in search of less expensive places to live.

What will happen to America's rural areas when a few of them start to trickle into each of the less expensive counties? Who will benefit? Who will be hardpressed by their arrival?

The beneficiaries will be those with apartments and houses to rent and sell, or land on which housing can be built. Their patience and foresight will be rewarded, and whose children and grandchildren will be enriched by population growth. (See also : land speculation, speculators, all benefits...) As population rises, economic rent rises. But others who already are renters there will have competition for the available rentals. Young people just starting families will be competing for existing housing with these new arrivals.

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themes:

cost of living

young people

poverty

poverty's causes

abolishing poverty

housing affordability

barriers to entry

absentee ownership

in one's sleep

paying twice

desperado

all benefits ...

burdening the poor

commuting

is democracy enough?

illusion of freedom

land monopoly capitalism

density

economic justice

effects of not collecting site rent

effects of taxing land value

equity for the landless

homeownershipe

equal opportunity

created equal

fences and small bandages

I was there first!

FIRE sector

God's eldest sons?

industrial slavery

inequality

infrastructure

interconnectedness

intergenerational equity

jobs chasing people

land prices

lowering the price of land

mobility

a society with no victims

not passed on

our daily bread

patchwork remedies

protecting the poor

rack-rented

real estate fortunes

red and blue

regressivie and progressive

rent control

rentiers

reparations

rich get rich

right to life

rights

shining city

heaven

slums

sprawl

small towns

small business

social problems

social surplus

unearned increment

wages

starve government

stakeholder society

ownership

possession

subtle alchemy

widow's skirts

supporting a family

sustainability

the least of these

the cat

theft

wages

wage slaves

Robinson Crusoe

the remedy

transportation

well-provisioned ship

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