Launched in 1996 the Insight Center’s Family Needs Calculator measures the floor income necessary for an individual (under age 65 and without disability) or family to afford basic expenses in California. Covering all 58 counties, the data assesses the cost of housing, food, child care, health care, transportation, and taxes—without accounting for public or private assistance. By analyzing what’s happening in California, one of the nation’s largest states, the Insight Center’s Family Needs Calculator provides a more accurate understanding of what’s needed to meet the fundamental needs of people throughout the US.

Today’s problems are the result of systemic policy failures—not personal responsibility—and measures such as the federal poverty level put an emphasis on self-sufficiency, minimizing or ignoring the fact that people face economic insecurity because of the ways in which racism, sexism, and xenophobia are baked into US systems, institutions, and polices. Check out our 2021 report, The Cost of Being Californian, and use the tabs and tools below to learn more about the health of California families and to look up the most recent data for your area.

Notably, we renamed the tool the “Family Needs Calculator” after leading a narrative change project with a cohort of Bay Area racial justice organizations.

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