Self-Sufficiency in LaPorte County

From the foundation, State Street has been a community that has engaged poverty, hunger, and loneliness in the city of LaPorte. The Pax Center is an extension of our belief that Christians should be committed to the common good. Christianity is a neighborhood religion. What happens in the localized neighborhood should concern the citizens of a church. But, in order to be concerned, we must first be aware. What are the needs? What are the struggles? How can we best walk with those battling these profound poverties? 

Indiana Institute for Working Families released The Self-Sufficiently Standard for Indiana 2016 in January. It just recently crossed my desk. The self-sufficiency standard measures the basic costs needed for a family of a given composition to bet by where they live. Essentially, it tells you how much it truly costs to live in a community and be self-sufficient (i.e. not needing any governmental or nonprofit assistance.) The equation to determine the self-sufficiency standard includes costs associated with housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, taxes, and other miscellaneous burdens that people incur during the course of the month. As most people know, there’s always SOMETHING else that comes up, and those somethings can often be the determining factor between someone making it or not. 

The most important truth that came from this study is unsurprising to most — the current minimum wage will not support a single adult in any county in the state of Indiana. The minimum wage is not a minimum wage for self-sufficiency. You can get paid minimum wage and still need the support of governmental and nonprofit entities. Anecdotally, we have people that work that also visit the Pax Center. Many get a job paying minimum wage and believe they will finally be able to make it on their own. Disappointment sets in when they find out that they can, in fact, work 40 hours each week and still not be self-sufficient. The following is a chart that shows the highest self-sufficiency wages compared to some of the lowest in the state. 

One of the more interesting findings from this study: 

“The most common Indiana occupation is retail salespersons and accounts for 3% of all Indiana workers. With median hourly earnings of $9.47 per hour (median annual earnings of $19,709), the most common occupation in Indiana provides workers with earnings that are less than 50% of the Standard for this family in Marion County. IN fact, two adults working full time at this wage would still not be able to earn the minimum needed to support a preschooler and a school-age child in Marion County. Both adults would have to work an additional 16 hours for a total of 56 hours per week at a retail salesperson’s average wage just to meet their basic needs.” 

The study paid special attention to single parent incomes. They found that with a single parent, one preschooler, and one school-age child, at the minimum wage the parent would need to work 82 hours each week to meet the cost of their basic needs (and this includes the value of tax credits.) To meet the state standard for self-sufficiency, a single parent of two children would need to make $20 per hour. However, each county can differ on the precise costs and amounts needed to be self sufficient. Here’s the data for LaPorte County: 

Based on this data, for a single person to be self-sufficient in LaPorte County, they would need to make at least $8.90 per hour. For a single parent of two children in LaPorte County, they would need to make $21.45 per hour. 

It is quite a bit of data to digest. I’m not exactly sure how the data will impact what we do at the Pax Center. It will certainly inform our opinions and posture toward those struggling in economically depressed situations. It is hard to make it, especially without a supporting network and someone to give you a chance. It is not always as simple as "_______ needs to get a job!" You can have a job and still not be self-sufficient. We need better jobs. We need higher paying jobs. 

According to Indiana Institute for Working Families, the road to economic security is threefold: 

  1. Secure basic needs [make enough to be above the self-sufficiency standard]
  2. Create an emergency savings fund [have enough for job loss, emergencies, economic crises, etc.]
  3. Choose an economic security pathway [better postsecondary education, improved housing homeownership, and savings for retirement.]