What Is a Family Wage?

Osmand Vitez

A family wage represents an income figure that is sufficient for a family to cover its basic costs. Costs included in this figure include housing, food, utilities, childcare and transportation, among other items. The number usually does not include any support from government agencies or other relatives who may give money to the family. The family wage is in contrast to a living wage, which is the figure a single individual needs to maintain a specific standard of living. Individual states, regions or countries often publish information regarding both the family and living wage for its area.

A family wage is the income necessary to cover the basic needs of a family.
A family wage is the income necessary to cover the basic needs of a family.

A difficult part to the family wage calculation is determining what falls under the category of basic necessities. If the wage must cover these items, it can be subjective if different families consider different items a necessity. For example, transportation in one city may be a bus pass, as the family can use public transportation to get around town. Another city may require a sport utility vehicle as rough terrain makes it difficult to offer public transportation. This problem also manifests itself in other items, such as housing, food and utilities, as family size may differ for different areas.

Family wages might not provide enough money for a child's medical expenses.
Family wages might not provide enough money for a child's medical expenses.

In many cases, a standard computation does not exist for family wage. States, regions or countries may offer basic formulas or online calculators that provide basic information on what a family may need to cover basic necessities. Most of these formulas and calculators use predetermined specifications, such as a family of four or average costs for normal expenses in the area. Such stipulations are often disclosed so a family can understand why the figures are higher or lower than they believe necessary. A family of five would need to adjust a formula if it considers a family of four the base for the calculation.

Governments often set minimum wage for workers in specific areas in order to provide a living wage for individuals. Frequently, minimum wage does not typically meet the needs for covering costs under a family wage calculation. In some cases, a family may need two incomes to cover the basic necessities for their lifestyle. Two minimum full-time minimum wage jobs may or may not suffice for meeting this need. Additionally, a minimum wage does not even guarantee a living wage.

A lack of a defined family wage can make it difficult for a family to decide upon where to move or live. A lack of information makes it difficult for a family to ensure they can cover their costs in a specific area. Many individuals and families compare information from one or more areas in terms of wage to determine where to move or live in a particular area.

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