Since 2008, the Social IMPACT Research Center has been home to a cost of living project called the Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard. The Self-Sufficiency Standard is a tool that calculates how much income families need to pay for their basic needs based on where they live. The Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard has been calculated for 108 areas in the state and for 152 different family types (varying by number of adults and children as well as by the ages of those children).
IMPACT is currently working in collaboration with Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) to update the Self-Sufficiency Standard to the more robust Basic Economic Security TablesTM (BESTTM). Like the Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard, the BESTTM Index is a cost of living tool that measures how much income families need to meet their most basic expenses. The BESTTM Index is based on real local costs for different family compositions and makes clear how much families in over 100 geographies in Illinois can expect to pay for basic necessities such as housing, health care, transportation, food, childcare—and what sort of an income they need to afford these things without additional supports. By highlighting the differences between these basic family budgets and local wages, the BESTTM Index also helps define who needs assistance to be more economically secure and emphasizes the importance of income supports, quality jobs, and career ladders. Ultimately, the BESTTM Index is a tool that can be used to plan not just how to move families out of poverty, but how to move them on a path to true economic security.
Over the coming year, IMPACT will work to infuse the BESTTM Index throughout its poverty education and communication efforts in order to paint a more comprehensive picture of what it really takes for Illinois families to be economically secure. Through the development of user-friendly tools and resources IMPACT will facilitate use of the BESTTM Index by service providers helping clients with career and education planning, individuals and families considering re-locating to new communities, business and community leaders weighing workforce and labor market decisions, and advocates and policymakers working to expand economic security.
To learn more about the BESTTM index and talk to an IMPACT researcher about obtaining data, contact Jennifer Clary, Research Associate.
To access materials and resources from our 2009 Self-Sufficiency Standard, choose any of the options below: