Paycheck To Paycheck: Wages and the Cost of Housing in the Counties, 2004
For the last five years, the Center has published a series of reports documenting the growing numbers of working families with critical housing needs. One recent study revealed a dramatic 67 percent increase between 1997 and 2001 in the number of low to moderate-income working families paying at least half their income for housing.
To put a “face” on aggregate numbers, the Center developed Paycheck to Paycheck analyses which look at wages for selected vital occupations to see how working families relying on these earnings fare in housing markets around the country. This report represents the first attempt to take the Paycheck analyses to the county level on a nationwide basis. In addition, this report surveys the experience of some of the nation’s largest and/or fastest growing counties on how the lack of affordable housing affects their communities.
In April of 2004, NACo and the Center conducted a survey drawing from a sample of some of the nation’s largest and fastest growing counties. The survey, completed by 98 counties, covered a variety of issues concerning housing for working families. Low to moderate-income working families are those households earning at least full-time minimum wage (nationally $10,712) up to the median household income in the county (the national median household income is $42,209).
Using a combination of secondary sources of data and survey data, wage and housing cost profiles were prepared for a selection of 30 counties. These profiles compare beginning-of-year 2004 rental costs and homeownership costs in the counties with the prevailing wage rates for six occupations—police officer, firefighter, elementary school teacher, retail salesperson, janitor and construction laborer. Appendices A and B present the methodology used in this report and a copy of the survey. (Author)
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