An updated look at what it costs an Oregon family to meet basic needs

Chuck Sheketoff

How much income do families across Oregon need to get by?

The federal poverty guidelines, unfortunately, provide an unsatisfactory answer. It's widely recognized that the official definition of poverty, developed in the early 1960s, is outdated and flawed. Under that definition, families are poor when their income is less than three times the cost of a modest basket of food. In effect, the poverty guidelines measure serious economic privation, not basic needs.

To provide a more realistic view of what it takes for a family to make ends meet, the Economic Policy Institute has updated the Basic Family Budget Calculator. It measures the income a family needs to secure a safe and decent — yet modest — living standard in the community in which the family resides.

The Family Budget Calculator shows expenses for housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities and taxes for families in the year 2013. The calculator does not include savings for retirement, for a rainy day or for college.

Unlike the official poverty threshold, which is the same nationwide, the Family Budget Calculator provides estimates of costs by state, city, metropolitan or rural area. For Oregon, the calculator provides figures for the metropolitan areas of Bend, Corvallis, Eugene-Springfield, Medford-Ashland, Portland and Salem, as well as for rural Oregon.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at

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