By Kristin Jones
How much does a person need to get by in this state?
In Colorado, the minimum wage is $8.23 an hour. Is that enough? Yes—if you are childless and living in one of three counties in the state: Bent, Custer or Otero, according to new research from the Colorado Center on Law & Policy.
For a single parent making minimum wage, it’s impossible to get by without some form of help in any county in the state, according to the analysis by University of Washington researcher Diana Pearce. Her analysis takes into account costs for housing, child care, food, health care, transportation and other basic needs.
Rocky Mountain PBS I-News put together an interactive map that lets you search the self-sufficiency wage by county and number of children. It’s illuminating: Even with two parents working minimum-wage jobs, having an infant or a pre-schooler in the house means relying on outside help from family, charity or public assistance in any county.
And for bigger families? Two working adults with an infant, a preschooler and a school-age kid will each need to make at least $12.73 an hour to live in Bent County, and $27.38 to survive unassisted in Pitkin County, or $115,666 a year combined.
Pitkin County includes Aspen. But not everybody there is rich; in fact, fewer than half of the families there fit into the income bracket that would let them afford three kids by that standard, according to Census data, while 13 percent of Pitkin County families make less than $35,000 a year.
Making enough money to pay your bills is a health issue. People with higher incomes live longer.
The Colorado Center for Law & Policy analysis shows that what’s needed to pay the bills for most families is a lot more than you might expect.
And in some places in Colorado—urban areas and mountain towns—that standard is flatly unattainable for the low-wage workers who live there.