Economic Security Database Recommends Significantly Higher Wages

Author: CFFPP . Date: March 15, 2012

Practitioners working with low-income parents who owe child support often focus first on helping the parent get an income—any income—frequently at the minimum wage. A second goal is working toward self-sufficiency—increasing the parent’s income to a living wage. Lastly, the focus may turn toward building the parent’s economic security—increasing income so that the parent can save for emergencies and retirement, afford health insurance and medical expenses, and support their children and/or families. But what hourly wages are enough to achieve economic security? As shown below, there is a wide gap between the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and economic security wages for parents paying child support, which range from $17 to $25 per hour or more in different parts of the country.

The Economic Security Database is a new online tool that practitioners, noncustodial parents, and their advocates, can use to determine what level of wages are needed to not just make ends meet, but to achieve economic security. The website was developed by Wider Opportunities for Women, and includes detailed information for major cities and all counties in 16 states, as well as the District of Columbia. Below is a sample from the Economic Security Database showing the recommended monthly budget for a single working person who has a job with health benefits in four areas across the country. Note that this budget does not include any childcare expenses or child support—a topic addressed below.

If a parent is paying child support, the economic security budgets above must be significantly increased. Although child support guidelines vary from state to state, a parent paying child support for two children often pays about 25% of their income. This means that the recommended wages listed above are only 75% of the income that a parent really needs to earn. To calculate the larger income, take the “Annual Total” or “Hourly Wage” listed in the Economic Security Database and divide by 75 percent. As is shown below, wages that provide economic security for noncustodial parents paying child support range from about $17 to $25 per hour, or about $35,000 to $53,000 per year:

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