1 out of 4 Colorado residents live below the self-sufficiency standard.
The Self-Sufficiency Standard measures how much income a family of a certain composition in a given place needs to adequately meet their basic needs—without public or private assistance.
What does it take to make ends meet in Colorado?
The Colorado Center on Law and Policy published The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado 2022 Report to ensure the best data and analyses are available to enable Colorado’s families and individuals to make progress toward real economic security.
The result is a comprehensive, credible, and user-friendly tool.
Over the last twenty-one years, the Self-Sufficiency Standard for two adults, one preschooler, and one school-aged child has increased by 124%, on average, for all Colorado counties, or an average of 5.9% per year since 2001.
While median earnings have only increased 64%.
Cost of Living in Colorado
For families with young children, the cost of housing and child care combined typically make up nearly half of the family’s budget.
Change in Cost by Budget Area: 2001-2021
Child Care: 139%
Health Care: 176%
Hourly Wage Needed to Meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard
The minimum wage in 2022 was $12.56/hr, a wage level that would not have allowed any of these households to cover their basic needs, even working full-time. The two adult household is very close, but keep in mind, this is the wage level that both adults would need to earn working full-time to make ends meet.
Annual Income Needed to Achieve Self-Sufficiency
The income needs calculated by the Self-Sufficiency Standard are the bare-minimum a household needs to cover their needs. It does not include the costs of things like travel or getting an ice cream cone with the family—things that add to Coloradans’ quality of life.
$85, 811 annual income is needed for a family consisting of one adult, one preschooler, and one school-age child to meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard.
$95, 345 annual income is needed for a family consisting of for two adults, one preschooler, and one school-age to meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard.
Strategies to Meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard
Closing the gap between current wages and the Self-Sufficiency Standard requires both:
reducing costs and raising incomes.
Few Top Jobs Pay Self-Sufficiency Wages
Hourly Self-Sufficiency wage for one adult, one preschooler, and one school-age child in Denver County
How to Reduce Costs:
Providing families struggling to cover costs with work supports that offer stability and resources while they become self-sufficient.
The eligibility criteria of our public programs do not align and create gaps in support—households who could benefit from supports are not eligible for them.
How to Raise Incomes:
Enhancing skills as well as improving access to jobs that pay higher wages.
Public policies like increases in the minimum wage.
Removing barriers that perpetuate occupational segregation into low-wage jobs by race/ethnicity and gender.