October 17, 2007

$74k income needed by a renting family-of-four in LA

On Monday, the ever-reliable Shankar Vedantam reported in the Washington Post: "When Immigration Goes Up, Prices Go Down." And now we have some real world confirmation on just how cheap it is to live in America's immigration capital, Los Angeles. From the LA Times:

Poverty line out of touch with costs, advocates say

A report by the California Budget Project estimates that a two-working-parent family in L.A. needs $74,044 to make ends meet.

By Alana Semuels

Everyone knows living in California isn't cheap. But a new report casts a light on how challenging it is to afford basic necessities -- and how inadequate a minimum-wage job is to meet those needs.

A person working full-time for the state's minimum wage of $7.50 an hour earns $15,600 annually. But a single adult in Los Angeles needs to make $28,126 a year to live modestly, while a single parent needs $62,393, according to the California Budget Project, the policy group behind the report being released today.

A two-parent family in Los Angeles with one working member needs $51,035, while a two-working-parent family needs $74,044, the report calculated.

The group estimated the cost of housing, food, transportation, child care, healthcare, taxes and miscellaneous items in regions across the state.

Calculations were based on families who do not receive healthcare through employment, rent rather than own real estate and have a car.

"The standard of living envisioned is more than a 'bare bones existence,' " the report says, "yet covers only basic expenses, allowing little to no room for 'extras' such as college savings, vacations, or emergencies."

They are assuming $1,269 per month for rent and utilities for a family of four. For a three bedroom apartment, that would put you in some place pretty dismal, rather than in a section of LA with decent public middle schools, such as Sherman Oaks or Valley Village. On the other hand, they are assuming $861 per month for health care, so the head-above-water point is a little lower if you get insurance through your job. (Of course, you could pay a lot more than $861 for health insurance on an individual family basis -- as a cancer survivor, I once got quoted $1,500 per month.)

To buy a home rather than rent, you'd roughly have to double that income to, say, $150,000, although at present, nobody is buying anymore, so it's all pretty theoretical.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

12 comments:

bob said...

Even employer provided health insurance for a family of four results in my experience with monthly bills of about $600 if you decline the PPO option.

Steve, saying $1269/mo gets you a pretty dismal 3 bedroom apartment in LA is far too optimistic. Here is a link showing all the apartments that size and price in LA Craigslist:
http://losangeles.craigslist.org/search/apa?query=&minAsk=500&maxAsk=1269&bedrooms=3

For who don't know LA geography, 100% of the listings are in war zones that I wouldn't want to even visit in broad daylight (South Central, Compton, the northen part of Long Beach) or are actually in the desert more than 50 traffic-choked miles from LA.

A 3-bedroom within a 45 minute commute of downtown or the west side of LA that is safe for children to live in and having parking for two cars is going to run you $1800 a month at absolute minimum, and the schools still won't be very good.

Also the study said 1200 a month including utilities. In a place near LA with good public schools, you'd be quite hard pressed to even get 400sq ft studio for your family of four.

bjdouble said...

Let's say there are 10 school districts and a family wants to go to a district where their child will not be a minority. For a white family, that limits the school districts to five. That means all the white families are trying to squeeze into five districts. That's what drove up housing prices in California. Most US cities are much less dense today than even 50 years ago.

Peter said...

Let's say there are 10 school districts and a family wants to go to a district where their child will not be a minority. For a white family, that limits the school districts to five.

But consider: a family of four with a $74K annual income looking for rental housing in Los Angeles probably isn't white.

Mark said...

I have a friend who is smart, has an MBA from a top 25 school, and who speaks, reads, and writes Spanish fluently (Mormon mission thing). He was working in the LA area but left because he - an MBA, mind you - couldn't afford to buy a home.

What's more, he did his mission in the LA area, among the immigrants. So his refusal to live in high immigrant areas wasn't based on preconceived notions and bigotry, but on actual, firsthand experience.

USA Today had an article not long ago about such people. It detailed the rising percentage of incomes that homebuyers were having to pay to buy homes. It was one of those rare articles where the people they used as examples weren't waitresses and bartenders. They had educations in good fields.

PRCalDude said...

$1269 a month would put you in the middle of a war zone in east Los Angeles, south central, or some horrible part of Long Beach.

Let's say there are 10 school districts and a family wants to go to a district where their child will not be a minority. For a white family, that limits the school districts to five. That means all the white families are trying to squeeze into five districts. That's what drove up housing prices in California. Most US cities are much less dense today than even 50 years ago.
Of course you're right on that one.

Anonymous said...

a family of four with a $74K annual income looking for rental housing in Los Angeles probably isn't white

That's because lower-wage white families have been ethnicly cleansed from Los Angeles.

DifferentJeff said...

Christ, is it any better in Orange County? My wife and I hope to move there to be near her family. We'll be a teacher/librarian combo also saddled with student loans.

My (uninformed) attitude has always been that it'll be difficult but do-able. 30 million people live there, so it must be possible, right?

Is it much cheaper further inland?

Anonymous said...

It's no better in Orange County, probably worse.

And yes it IS much much cheaper inland, however your commute will be hellish.

Anonymous said...

Rush Limbaugh pointed out, quite cogently I think, that the story is really propaganda for socialized healthcare.

Fred said...

Steve,

Valley Village is where Sarah Silverman's Comedy Central show is set. Interesting to learn this is a real place.

Zach said...

1. It would seem a much better solution to settle for a 2 bedroom and have the kids double up than to live in a "war zone". That's why so many immigrants can be in LA without making 75k a year, they share housing.
2. The numbers show that it doesn't make economic sense for both spouses to work if one (almost always the mother) makes less than 23,000/yr. Add to that the stress of work, the value of quality time with the children, etc and it would seem that most mothers shouldn't work unless they can make at least 30k and even that is break even.
And if the mother is at home, homeschooling could be an option, especially if there are more than 2 kids. Then the school district wouldn't matter and the savings could be immense. It actually would make more sense for an LA public school elementary teacher with three kids to quit her 33k/yr job and homeschool her kids b/c of the rent savings. Of course, if she gets divorced, she is screwed.
I still don't understand how immigration defies the laws of supply and demand. The supply of land is constant, the demand increases with population, thus more immigration means more expensive housing. I suppose they will say that that is compensated for by cheaper construction costs, lower consumer prices, etc, but won't that be taken care of through free trade? If a Mexican makes cheap stuff and it's shipped to America it seems that that would lower prices as much if not more than if a Mexican comes to the US and keeps labor prices down.
Finally, I've always been suspicious of this number crunching since many DO in fact work minimum wage jobs in LA and still manage to send back money to Mexico.

Steve Sailer said...

A new study finds the average rent in LA is $1,664. That's for the average size apartment, so a three bedroom would likely be north of 2,000 per month.