With inflation worse than it has been in four decades, the price of just about everything is going up these days. This means that even if you are one of the lucky Americans who got a raise last yearyour total income may not go as far as before.
Long before our recent inflation woes, many Americans who considered themselves middle class were already feeling pinched. In one fast company-Harris Poll last August, about half of Americans said they did do not think the definition of “middle class” is changing for the better, even though 60% of respondents described their household as fitting this definition.
Given our current economic trajectory, you may be wondering if your household is even middle class. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonprofit think tank that focuses on middle-income people, has two tools that can help you answer the question.
The first is a family budget calculator, which is quite self-explanatory. Simply enter your county and state and select the number of adults and children in your household. The tool then produces a detailed list of necessities – food, housing, healthcare, childcare, etc. – and shows you how much you would need to earn for a “modest but adequate standard of living” in that area. It also usefully calculates these costs per month or per year, so you can compare them to your own monthly or annual income.
The second PPE tool is a family budget card, which allows you to see how your region compares to other regions in the country. Again, you can plug in your county and state to see a detailed list of moderate spending based on different household types. But the color-coded map visualization is particularly useful, with more expensive areas noted in darker blue and cheaper areas noted in lighter blue.
Even better, you can see different versions of the card based on specific expenses, which shows many regional variations for each expense. For example, the map shows that above-average childcare costs are particularly prevalent in the Northeast, while transportation costs appear worse on the West Coast. High housing costs, meanwhile, tend to be concentrated around major metropolitan areas.
The PPE Calculator includes estimates for more than 3,000 US counties and data sources from a number of federal agencies and nonprofit groups. You can consult the complete methodology here.