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1 out of 4 Colorado residents live below the self-sufficiency standard.

Self-Sufficiency Standard

What does it take to make ends meet in Colorado?


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.

Image by Ally Wagner

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

  • Housing: 92%

  • Child Care: 139%

  • Food: 98%

  • Transportation: 46%

  • Health Care: 176%

  • Miscellaneous: 169%

Self-Sufficiency Standard

Hourly Wage 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.

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Family Together

Annual Income Needed to Meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard

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.

Single parent family

$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.

Two parent family

$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.

Image by Hillshire Farm

Our solutionJeffco Prosperity Partners

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