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Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is the Self-Sufficiency Standard for Indiana?


A: The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Indiana defines the income working families need to meet their basic necessities without private or public assistance. Basic minimum needs include housing, childcare, food, transportation, health care, miscellaneous expenses (clothing, telephone, household items), and taxes (minus federal and state tax credits). The Standard is calculated for 70 different family types in each of Indiana's 92 counties.

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Q: How is the Self-Sufficiency Standard different from the official Federal Poverty guidelines (FPG)?

A: The Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) are a four-decades-old calculation based on the cost of food, and assumes that food is one-third of a family's budget. The Standard is based on the costs of all basic needs of a working family-not just food, but also housing, childcare, health care, transportation, miscellaneous costs, plus taxes and tax credits. Unlike the FPG's one-size-fits-all model, these costs vary, not just by the size of the family and number of children, as with the FPG, but also by the age of the children, as some costs, particularly childcare, differ dramatically by age. Finally, while the FPG are the same no matter where one lives the Standard varies by county in Indiana.

Q: Where does the data come from?

A: In general, for each category, data comes from scholarly or credible sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau; are updated annually; and are age- and geographically-specific, as appropriate. Whenever available, the Standard uses government-calculated numbers of what is minimally adequate, such as the USDA food budgets based on nutrition requirements, or HUD's Fair Market Rents for housing assistance.

Q: How is the Self-Sufficiency Standard calculated?

A: First, the basic costs for each family type (which vary by number and age of children, and by number of adults) are added in each county. Ten percent of this total is added for miscellaneous costs. Second, taxes and tax credits are calculated using formulas that calculate the state and federal income and payroll taxes as well as sales tax (where applicable).

Q: Aren't the Self-Sufficiency wages too high?

A: No. Because the Self-Sufficiency Standard is calculated using the real costs of goods and services purchased in the regular marketplace, it reflects the real expenses consumers face. The Standard is a no-frills budget that does not allow for entertainment, carry-out or fast food, savings, or emergency expenses such as car repairs. Nevertheless, many families lack a Self-Sufficiency level income and manage to survive. If they do, however, it is reasonable to assume that they are getting help meeting their needs with public or private subsidies, and/or they are foregoing one or more needs such as using less desirable child care, doubling-up or living in substandard housing, obtaining free food or doing without, or not obtaining needed health care.

Q: Isn't the Self-Sufficiency Standard unrealistic for most workers?

A: No. The Self-Sufficiency Standard sets a goal for workers. Achieving self-sufficiency is a process that involves not just finding a job with certain wages and benefits, but achieving income security over time. There are several ways-separately or in combination-that workers can achieve self-sufficiency. They can receive temporary work supports until their wages increase. In addition, they can obtain training and/or education that will prepare them for higher-wage jobs. Finally, they can combine low-wage jobs with self-employment initiatives.

Download complete FAQ document (PDF).