Self-Sufficiency Standard

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The Self-Sufficiency Standard tracks the true cost of living facing North Carolina families today, based on family size and geographic location.  

How is the Self-Sufficiency Standard Calculated?  

The Self-Sufficiency Standard is the amount needed to meet basic needs without public or private assistance. The Standard is calculated for over 700 family types for all North Carolina counties. The budgets are “bare bones,” with just enough to meet basic needs, but no extras. Expenses include housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, miscellaneous, taxes/tax credits, and emergency savings.  

How is the Self-Sufficiency Standard Different from the official Federal Poverty Level (FPL)? 

The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is a five-decades-old calculation based on the cost of food, and assumes that food is one-third of a family’s budget. The Standard is based on the costs of all basic needs of a working family—not just food, but also housing, child care, health care, transportation, miscellaneous costs, plus taxes and tax credits. The Standard also takes family size, age of children, and geographic location into consideration.  

Where does the data come from? 

In general, data comes from scholarly or credible sources (such as the U.S. Census Bureau), are updated annually, and are age- and geographically-specific. Whenever available, the Standard uses government-calculated numbers, such as the USDA food budgets based on nutrition requirements, or HUD’s Fair Market Rents for housing assistance.

How can I find out the Self-Sufficiency Standard for my family?  

Visit United Way of North Carolina’s “Our Money Needs Calculator.” After filling in your location and household size, you will get information about how much income your family needs and resources to help make that possible. 

Last updated 5/5/2022

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