What Is Considered A Livable Wage In Massachusetts?

With its high cost of living and expensive metro areas like Boston, living comfortably on a limited income can be a challenge in Massachusetts. But what salary allows you to meet basic needs without relying on government assistance? If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Given Massachusetts’ high costs, experts estimate a livable wage for a single adult is around $17 per hour or $35,000 annually, while a family of four needs $36 per hour or $75,000 per year.

This comprehensive guide examines the true cost of living across Massachusetts and calculates livable wages for different households based on typical expenses. We’ll look at essential costs like housing, food, childcare, healthcare and transportation to determine salary requirements for making ends meet in different parts of the state.

Cost of Living By Region

When considering what constitutes a livable wage in Massachusetts, it is important to take into account the cost of living in different regions of the state. The cost of living can vary significantly depending on where you reside, with some areas being more expensive than others.


Housing is often the largest expense for most individuals and families. In Massachusetts, the cost of housing can be quite high, especially in cities like Boston and Cambridge. According to Zillow, the median home value in Massachusetts is currently around $400,000.

Rent prices also tend to be higher in urban areas, with the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Boston being around $2,500. However, in more rural areas of the state, housing costs may be significantly lower.


The cost of groceries and dining out can also vary depending on where you live in Massachusetts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spends around 12-15% of their income on food.

However, this can fluctuate based on factors such as location, dietary preferences, and family size. In general, urban areas tend to have higher food prices due to the higher cost of transportation and rent for grocery stores and restaurants.


Healthcare costs can be a significant financial burden for individuals and families. Massachusetts is known for having a high quality of healthcare, but it comes with a price. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual premium for employer-sponsored health insurance in Massachusetts is around $6,000 for a single person and $17,000 for a family.

Additionally, out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments and deductibles can add up quickly.


Transportation costs can vary depending on whether you own a car or rely on public transportation. In Massachusetts, owning a car can be expensive due to the high cost of auto insurance, gas prices, and parking fees.

Public transportation is a popular option in urban areas and can be more affordable, with monthly passes for the subway or bus system costing around $90. However, in more suburban or rural areas, owning a car may be necessary for commuting to work or running errands.

Livable Wages for Single Adults

Boston Metro

In the Boston Metro area, the cost of living is relatively high compared to other parts of Massachusetts. As a result, the livable wage for single adults is higher in this region. According to a study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a single adult living in the Boston Metro area would need to earn at least $xx per hour to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, transportation, healthcare, and taxes.

This figure takes into account the average cost of rent, utilities, groceries, and other essential expenses in the area.

Western MA

In Western Massachusetts, the cost of living is generally lower compared to the Boston Metro area. However, the livable wage for single adults is still an important consideration. According to the same study by MIT, a single adult in Western Massachusetts would need to earn around $xx per hour to maintain a comfortable standard of living.

This takes into account the lower average cost of rent, utilities, and other expenses in the region.

Central MA

Central Massachusetts is another region where the cost of living is relatively moderate. The livable wage for single adults in this area is slightly lower compared to the Boston Metro and Western Massachusetts regions.

Based on the MIT study, a single adult in Central Massachusetts would need to earn around $xx per hour to cover basic expenses and maintain a reasonable quality of life.

Cape Cod

Cape Cod is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches and picturesque towns. However, the cost of living in this region can be quite high. According to the MIT study, a single adult living in Cape Cod would need to earn around $xx per hour to afford the high cost of housing, transportation, and other essential expenses.

It’s important to note that this figure may vary depending on specific towns within Cape Cod.

For more information on livable wages in Massachusetts, you can visit the official website of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at https://livingwage.mit.edu/.

Salary Needed for Families

1 Child

When it comes to supporting a family in Massachusetts, the cost of living can be quite high. For a family with one child, it is important to have a livable wage that can cover basic necessities and provide a comfortable lifestyle.

According to recent studies, the average cost of raising a child in Massachusetts is around $15,000 per year. This includes expenses such as housing, healthcare, education, and childcare. To meet these costs and have a decent standard of living, a family with one child would ideally need a salary of at least $50,000 per year.

This would allow them to cover their expenses and have some room for savings and leisure activities.

2 Children

When a family has two children, the financial responsibilities increase significantly. In addition to the basic necessities, there are additional expenses such as extracurricular activities, clothing, and transportation.

The average cost of raising two children in Massachusetts is estimated to be around $30,000 per year. To support a family with two children comfortably, a salary of at least $70,000 per year would be needed.

This would ensure that the family can meet all their financial obligations and provide a good quality of life for their children.

3+ Children

For families with three or more children, the financial demands can be even greater. As the number of children increases, so do the expenses for housing, education, healthcare, and daily needs. According to recent data, the average cost of raising three or more children in Massachusetts can be around $45,000 per year.

To provide for a family with three or more children, a salary of $90,000 or more per year would be necessary. This would enable the family to meet their financial obligations and ensure a comfortable and stable environment for their children to grow and thrive.

It is important to note that these figures are estimates and can vary based on individual circumstances and lifestyle choices. It is always recommended to carefully assess your own financial situation and consider factors such as debt, savings, and other financial goals when determining what is considered a livable wage for your family in Massachusetts.

Impact of Debt and Savings

When considering what is considered a livable wage in Massachusetts, it’s important to take into account the impact of debt and savings. These financial factors can greatly affect an individual’s ability to meet their basic needs and achieve financial stability.

Student Loans

One of the biggest sources of debt for many individuals is student loans. The rising cost of education has resulted in a significant increase in student loan debt across the country. In Massachusetts, the average student loan debt for graduates is around $35,000.

This burden can make it challenging for individuals to afford housing, transportation, and other necessary expenses.

It’s important for individuals to consider the impact of their student loan debt when determining what is a livable wage. Making monthly loan payments can eat into an individual’s income, making it difficult to cover other essential expenses.

It’s crucial for individuals to create a budget that takes into account their student loan payments and ensures that they have enough money left over for other necessities.

Credit Card Debt

Another common form of debt that can impact an individual’s ability to live comfortably is credit card debt. Credit card debt can quickly accumulate due to high interest rates and overspending. In Massachusetts, the average credit card debt is around $6,700 per household.

Having a significant amount of credit card debt can make it difficult for individuals to afford housing, utilities, and other essential expenses. It’s important for individuals to create a plan to pay off their credit card debt and avoid accumulating more debt in the future.

This may involve budgeting, cutting unnecessary expenses, and finding ways to increase income.

Retirement Savings

While it may not seem directly related to a livable wage, retirement savings play a crucial role in long-term financial security. Many individuals in Massachusetts find it challenging to save for retirement due to the high cost of living and other financial obligations.

According to a survey conducted by the Massachusetts Retirement Research Center, around 50% of private sector workers in Massachusetts do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. This means that individuals must take the initiative to save for retirement on their own.

Without sufficient retirement savings, individuals may find themselves struggling to make ends meet in their later years. It’s important for individuals to prioritize saving for retirement, even if it means making sacrifices in the present. This can help ensure a more stable and comfortable future.

Resources for Struggling Households

Government Assistance

For households in Massachusetts facing financial difficulties, there are various government assistance programs available to provide support and help alleviate financial burdens. One such program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps low-income individuals and families afford nutritious food.

Eligible individuals can apply for SNAP benefits through the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance website.

Additionally, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) offers rental assistance to eligible low-income families, providing them with affordable housing options. The program aims to prevent homelessness and support families in securing stable housing.

More information and application details can be found on the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development website.

Food Banks

Food banks play a crucial role in providing immediate assistance to struggling households by offering free or low-cost food supplies. In Massachusetts, there are several organizations dedicated to combating hunger and food insecurity.

The Greater Boston Food Bank, for example, distributes millions of pounds of food annually to local food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. Their website offers information on how to find a food pantry near you and how to access their services.

Another notable organization is Project Bread, which not only provides emergency food assistance but also advocates for systemic change to address the root causes of hunger. Their website offers resources for finding food assistance programs, as well as information on nutrition education and advocacy efforts.

Affordable Housing

Finding affordable housing is often a significant challenge for struggling households. However, there are resources available in Massachusetts to help individuals and families secure affordable housing options.

The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development offers various programs and initiatives to promote affordable housing, such as the Rental Assistance Program and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Additionally, websites like Affordable Housing Online provide a comprehensive database of affordable housing options in Massachusetts. This resource allows individuals to search for housing based on their location, income level, and specific needs, making it easier to find suitable and affordable housing options.

It is important to note that these resources are constantly evolving, and it is recommended to visit the respective websites for the most up-to-date information and eligibility requirements.


Given steep costs for basics like housing, food and childcare, a livable wage in Massachusetts is much higher than the state’s minimum wage. Single adults need around $35,000 at a minimum to cover essential costs if they live frugally. But families often need upwards of $75,000 or more, especially in expensive areas like Boston. Supplementing income with aid programs can help struggling households get by.

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