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Clyde W. Kunz, CFRE,
ASU Lodestar Center
Clyde Kunz and
Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.
For nearly 50 years, the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL) has been the standard measure used by governments and nonprofit organizations serving low income individuals and families to determine eligibility for anti-poverty programs. The FPL was based almost exclusively on the cost of food, assuming that food is one-third of a family’s budget. While it has been adjusted for inflation, it has never accurately reflected household costs, nor does it take into account childcare costs or other family variables. The FPL for a family of three is $19,090, regardless of whether those three people are adults, teen-agers or infants.
The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona (WFSA) commissioned a study to create a more comprehensive, useful measure of self-sufficiency. The recently released report, How Much is Enough in Your County? The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Arizona 2012, is a comprehensive, user-friendly tool that can be used by agencies and individuals to help Arizona’s families make real progress toward economic security.
The Self-Sufficiency Standard in the report calculates and reports the income needed by working families to meet basic necessities. Basic minimum needs accounted for include: housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and expenses such as clothing, telephone and household items. It also accounts for taxes (minus federal and state tax credits). The Self-Sufficiency Standard is calculated for 70 different family types in each of Arizona’s counties, and data is provided separately for each county.
Data in this report come from scholarly research and publicly-available credible sources (such as the U.S. Census Bureau), which are updated regularly and are age- and geographically specific. Whenever available, the Self- Sufficiency Standard uses government standards such as the USDA food budgets based on nutrition requirements, or HUD’s Fair Market Rents for housing assistance. Unlike other measures such as the FPL’s one-size-fits-all model, the Standard calculates household costs not just by the size of the family and the number of children, but also by age of the children, as some costs, particularly child care and food, differ dramatically by age. Finally, while the FPL is the same no matter where one lives, the Self-Sufficiency Standard varies by Arizona county.
Moreover, the report found that Arizona has a shortage of jobs that pay a self-sufficient wage. Of the top ten occupations in the state, measured by the number of people who work in each occupation, only two - registered nurse and general/operations manager - pay median wages that would meet the standard for a family comprising one adult, one preschooler and one school-aged child. Consequently, many hard-working, low-income families look to public supports like food stamps, WIC, KidsCare and subsidized child care to keep their heads above water. But since these programs are typically based on the FPL, families may earn just enough money to be disqualified for public assistance–but not enough to be self-sufficient. They may end up having to choose between basic needs, such as foregoing health insurance, if their paychecks are consumed by housing, food and transportation costs.
Examples of the report’s findings:
Since its publication in May, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona has worked to raise public awareness about the Self-Sufficiency Standard and encouraged its use in a variety of ways:
The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Arizona 2012 was produced for the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona by Dr. Diana Pearce at the University of Washington. Copies of the report and data tables are available at no cost at www.womengiving.org and at www.selfsufficiencystandard.org. Further information about the Self-Sufficiency Standard in general or for other states and related research and methodology can be found at www.selfsufficiencystandard.org.
Clyde W. Kunz CFRE is owner of Clyde Kunz and Associates, a consulting firm providing services to philanthropists and to nonprofit organizations. Kunz is also an instructor in the ASU Lodestar Center's Nonprofit Management Institute, and serves on the Board of the Women's Foundation of Southern Arizona.
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