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Interactive Website Launched to Understand Demographics of Self-Sufficiency

For Immediate Release: Thursday, February 1, 2018

A new interactive website will help government agencies, non-profit organizations, advocates and policy makers understand the demographics of county residents living below the self-sufficiency standard threshold.  The self-sufficiency standard indicates the amount of money needed by a family or individual to live in the community without public or private assistance.

Created by CountyStat in collaboration with the Community Action Agency, the website integrates Montgomery County’s Self-Sufficiency Standard 2016 data with population data from the American Community Survey. Among several features, CountyStat's interactive tool helps users navigate how much income is needed to support their families, which occupations are more likely to support their family type, and which parts of the County have lower average incomes.


Users can examine differences by family type, location within Montgomery County, and other demographics. The data shows Montgomery County has the highest cost of living in the state of Maryland, the most expensive housing, and the most expensive child care. While Montgomery County sets its own local minimum wage and some families access programs to support the costs of food, child care, and housing, many families still struggle to make ends meet.


A family of three with one adult, one preschooler and one school-age child would need an income of $86,580 to cover necessities such as housing, transportation and child care—more than four times the Federal Poverty Level for a family of three ($20, 780).  Despite Montgomery County’s higher minimum wage, a parent with two young children would need to work more than 155 hours per week at minimum wage to make ends meet.


“Most families need about 300 percent of the federal poverty level of income to be economically stable,” said Uma Ahluwalia, director of the County’s Department of Health and Human Services.  “At this level, families can overcome the "cliff effect"--the risk of falling back into poverty after incomes rise above the eligibility threshold of supportive programs.”


“This is a powerful tool and the interactive Self-Sufficiency website anchors nearly every other data analysis project CountyStat is working on, helping analysts better understand the true cost of living in Montgomery County,” said Dennis Linders, CountyStat analyst. 


“The ability to adjust for family type, occupation and other variables makes the site a powerful tool for families navigating their way out of poverty,” said Jackie DeCarlo, executive director of Manna Food Center. 

The Community Action Agency designated a portion of its federal Community Services Block Grant to access research, graphics and a data set from the University of Washington’s Center for Women’s Welfare, building on Maryland’s most recent 2016 Self-Sufficiency Standard report. CountyStat analysts then worked closely with Community Action Agency staff to develop the site. For more than 20 years, the Community Action Agency has worked with Dr. Diana Pearce of the University of Washington Center for Women’s Welfare to periodically update the Self-Sufficiency Standard. Learn more about Montgomery’s Interactive Self-Sufficiency Standard at  To view the interactive website, go to!/vizhome/Self-SufficiencyStandard_FD3/Title . 

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Release ID: 18-439
Media Contact: Mary Anderson 240-777-6534