New Study on Financial Self-Sufficiency for South Carolina Families

Columbia, SC (January 19, 2016) – A new report takes a realistic look at how much is actually needed to support a family in South Carolina. The Self-Sufficiency Standard for South Carolina 2016, which defines the amount of income necessary to meet basic needs. The report is published by United Way Association of South Carolina and University of Washington - Center for Women’s Welfare. Additional backing has been provided by Children’s Trust of South Carolina, The Riley Institute at Furman University, The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, United Way of Greenville County, United Way of the Midlands, United Way of the Piedmont, United Way of Aiken County and United Way of Pickens County.

The Self-Sufficiency Standard defines the amount of income necessary to meet basic needs (including taxes, housing, transportation, healthcare, childcare, and food) without public subsidies and/or private/informal assistance (e.g., free babysitting by a relative or friend, food provided by churches or local food banks, or shared housing). The family types for which a Standard is calculated range from one adult with no children, to one adult with one infant, one adult with one preschooler, and so forth, up to two-adult families with three teenagers.

Tim Ervolina, Chief Executive Officer at United Way Association of South Carolina states, “We are introducing an exhaustive, data-rich analysis that will change the way we talk about income and how much is really enough to live on in the state of South Carolina.”

The Self-Sufficiency Standard is an important component of the on-going work of the Early Childhood Common Agenda (ECCA). The ECCA is a collaborative effort led by Children’s Trust of South Carolina, the United Way Association of South Carolina and the Institute for Child Success. It supports specific recommendations to build smart, comprehensive early childhood systems South Carolina.

Why is this important?

The Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) are an obsolete calculation of poverty in that it is derived solely from the cost of food and does not take into account taxes, tax credits, costs associated with housing, transportation, healthcare, or childcare. In addition, the FPG is based on a family model in which only one adult is employed.

The Self-Sufficiency Standard:

  • is based on ALL major budget items faced by working adults.

  • calculates the most recent local or regional costs of each basic need.

  • varies costs by age groups of children.

  • reflects modern family practices, and assumes that all adults (whether married or single) work full-time.

  • includes the net effect of federal and state taxes and tax credits, as well as any local taxes and tax credits.

Key Report Findings

  • In South Carolina, the amount needed to be economically self-sufficient varies considerably by geographic location. For instance, the amount needed to make ends meet for one adult and one preschooler varies from $12.49 per hour ($26,373 annually) in Laurens County to $18.43 per hour ($38,920 annually) in Beaufort County, or from 166% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 244% of the Federal Poverty Level.

  • The Standard also varies by family type, that is, by how many adults and children are in a family and the age of each child. One adult living in Greenville County needs an hourly wage of $9.48 ($20,027 annually) to meet basic needs. For families with children, the amount needed to cover basic needs increases considerably. If the adult has a preschooler and a school-age child, the amount necessary to be economically secure nearly doubles, increasing to $18.32 per hour ($38,684 annually) in order to cover the cost of child care, a larger housing unit, and increased food and health care costs.

  • For families with young children, the cost of housing and child care combined typically account for approximately 50% of the family’s budget. For example, for a family with two adults, one infant, and one preschooler in Greenwood County, child care is 25% of the family’s budget while housing is 18%. Food costs take up 18%, health care is 15%, and transportation is 14% of the family’s budget.

  • The 2016 Self-Sufficiency Standard for Columbia is more expensive than comparably-sized Southern cities. The Self-Sufficiency Standard for one adult and one preschooler in Columbia ($16.87 per hour) is slightly more expensive than Savannah, GA ($16.59 per hour) and Gainesville, FL ($15.82 per hour).

The report is a unique and important measure of income adequacy. It compares South Carolina to other places in the United States and compares the South Carolina Standard to other commonly used benchmarks of income. For families without adequate income, the report models how public supports, such as child care assistance, can be a valuable resource to help families cover their basic needs as they move toward self-sufficiency. It concludes with a brief discussion of the various pathways to economic self-sufficiency. The full report is available at


The United Way Association of South Carolina's mission is to create long-lasting opportunities to advance the common good for all in the areas of education, financial stability, and health. For more information, visit

The Self-Sufficiency Standard for South Carolina 2016 is the first calculation of this data in South Carolina. The Self-Sufficiency Standard report was authored by Dr. Diana M. Pearce and produced by the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington. The report, plus tables provide county-specific information for 152 family types, is available online at The report is also available at

Dr. Diana Pearce developed the Self-Sufficiency Standard while the Director of the Women and Poverty Project at Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW). The Ford Foundation provided funding for the Standard’s original development.

Over the past 20 years, the Standard has been calculated in 38 states as well as the District of Columbia and New York City. Its use has transformed the way policies and programs for low-income workers are structured, and contributed to a greater understanding of what it takes to have adequate income to meet one’s basic needs in the United States.

For further information about any of the other states with the Standard, including the latest reports, the Standard data itself, and related publications such as demographic reports (which analyze how many and which households are above and below the Standard), please see A list of Self-Sufficiency Standard state partners is also available at this website.

For further information, contact Lisa Manzer with the Center at (206) 685-5264 or, or the report author and Center Director, Dr. Diana Pearce, at (206) 616-2850 or