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1 out of 4 Colorado residents live below the self-sufficiency standard.

The Self-Sufficiency Standard measures how much income a family of a certain composition in a given place needs to adequately meet their basic needs—without public or private assistance.

What does it take to make ends meet in Colorado?

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy published The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado 2022 Report to ensure the best data and analyses are available to enable Colorado’s families and individuals to make progress toward real economic security.


The result is a comprehensive, credible, and user-friendly tool.

Image by Ally Wagner

Over the last twenty-one years, the Self-Sufficiency Standard for two adults, one preschooler, and one school-aged child has increased by 124%, on average, for all Colorado counties, or an average of 5.9% per year since 2001.

While median earnings have only increased 64%.

Cost of Living in Colorado

For families with young children, the cost of housing and child care combined typically make up nearly half of the family’s budget.

Change in Cost by Budget Area: 2001-2021

  • Housing: 92%

  • Child Care: 139%

  • Food: 98%

  • Transportation: 46%

  • Health Care: 176%

  • Miscellaneous: 169%

Self-Sufficiency Standard
Self-Sufficiency Standard

Hourly Wage Needed to Meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard

The minimum wage in 2022 was $12.56/hr, a wage level that would not have allowed any of these households to cover their basic needs, even working full-time. The two adult household is very close, but keep in mind, this is the wage level that both adults would need to earn working full-time to make ends meet.

Self-Sufficiency Standard
Family Together

Annual Income Needed to Achieve Self-Sufficiency

The income calculated by the Self-Sufficiency Standard covers the bare minimum a household needs to cover their needs. It does not include the costs of things like travel or getting an ice cream cone with the family—things that add to Coloradans’ quality of life.

Single parent family

$91,395 annual income is needed for a family of three- one adult, one preschooler, and one school-age child- to meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard in Jefferson County.

Two parent family

$100,084 annual income is needed for a family of four- two adults, one preschooler, and one school-age- to meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard in Jefferson County.

Strategies to Meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard

Closing the gap between current wages and the Self-Sufficiency Standard requires both:

reducing costs and raising incomes.

Few Top Jobs Pay Self-Sufficiency Wages

Self-Sufficiency Standard

Hourly Self-Sufficiency wage for one adult, one preschooler, and one school-age child in Denver County

Reduce Costs:

  • Provide struggling families with work support that offers stability and resources while they become self-sufficient.

  • Align the eligibility criteria of public programs to close gaps in support for those on 'the cliff'.

Raise Incomes:

  • Enhance skills and improve access to jobs that pay higher wages.

  • Change public policies to increase the minimum wage.

  • Remove barriers that perpetuate occupational segregation into low-wage jobs by race/ethnicity and gender.

Image by Hillshire Farm

Jeffco Prosperity Partners is moving families from poverty to prosperity.

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