What it Really Means to “Make Ends Meet” in Nebraska

Making Ends Meet$16.39 per hour. That’s what it takes to “make ends meet” for a single parent with a preschooler in Omaha. It’s $15.38 in Lincoln, and $11.66 in Scottsbluff.

These numbers are just a few examples of the wages needed by families in Nebraska based on the newly released “Self-Sufficiency Standard for Nebraska 2010” released by Nebraska Appleseed.

“The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Nebraska 2010” measures how much money a family of a certain composition in a given county in Nebraska must earn to meet their basic needs, without public or private assistance. It also indicates the costs of basic needs including housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous expenses (clothing, telephone, household items.)

The “Self Sufficiency Standard for Nebraska 2010” report illustrates several important themes:

  • It takes significantly more than minimum wage to “make ends meet” for Nebraska families. In fact, the study reveals that there is not one county in Nebraska where a single parent earning minimum wage can meet their family’s basic needs.
  • It costs more to care for a family than it used to. The “Self-Sufficiency Standard” for a single parent with a preschooler in Omaha increased 9.7% since 2007, 13.8% in Lincoln, and 28.5% in Scottsbluff.
  • Different families have significantly different needs. Households are very different – even if they have the same number of members. For example, a three person family with a parent, a preschooler and a school-aged child in Omaha must earn $21.32 per hour, in part due to the high cost of child care. In contrast, a single parent family with two teenagers in Scottsbluff needs to earn $8.18 – in part because of the lower cost of living. A detailed analysis of economic well being is important because family needs are different.

The report corresponds with recent research by the U.S. Census Bureau regarding a “supplemental poverty measure” that better reflects the circumstances of low-income Americans and better reflects factors that impact economic security such as geographic location. Both this research and the Self Sufficiency Standard tell us that we can and should use a deeper analysis to determine economic well-being and to set eligibility rules for assistance programs, as well as for other purposes.

At the end of the day, the Self-Sufficiency Standard is an informative and useful tool – it can help people choose job training programs, it can serve as an evaluation tool for human services programs, and it can be used to set policy goals for multiple programs. Let’s work to put to good use in Nebraska.

Read The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Nebraska 2010 & Supporting Documents

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