Pinching pennies: barely making it in San Antonio

How far does your paycheck stretch?

This article was originally published by the H.E. Butt Foundation’s Folo Media initiative in 2017.

Can you pay your bills, buy “extras” like a new shirt or a meal out and still put money in the bank every month?

Chances are your answer depends on a number of variables, but the most important variable may be where you live.

In San Antonio, the median income is about $46,000 per household. The cost of living is 93.2 percent of the cost to live in the United States—meaning it is 6.8 percent cheaper to live in San Antonio. The United States’ average income is just over $56,000. The poverty threshold for a family of four is just over $24,000.

Of course, $24,000 isn’t really “making it.” Various sources have attempted to find what a livable income in San Antonio looks like. One study puts the figure at $46,152. Another puts it at $59,507.

But in segregated San Antonio, the only way to get a clear sense of what’s happening is to look at the city zip code by zip code. I compared zip code data to the Economic Policy Institute’s median income data and found that many Bexar County residents are living paycheck to paycheck.

Thirty-four out of 57 Bexar County zip codes do not make enough to put money in the bank at the end of the year. Those people represent the poor and working class, who are one hospital bill away from not being able to pay for rent.

Even some of the zip codes that are ahead are barely making it. Just west of Lackland Air Force base, 78245 has $117 left at the end of the year, according to EPI. That works out to $9.71 a month. For a family of four, that is enough for a few school supplies or maybe an appetizer at dinner once a month.

That kind of savings does not move the needle for those families. In a city where generational poverty, stagnation and income inequality are prevalent, these numbers are only one indication of the underlying problem that much of the population faces and other parts of the population never see.

Check out the spreadsheet here.

Note: EPI median income calculates housing, food, childcare, transportation, health care, other necessities and taxes per city based on Census and American Community data. Housing cost is for an average two-bedroom for a family of four. EPI does not account for savings.

While median income is calculated for each zip code, the cost of living is an average for the city, because no data sets exist for comfortable living per zip code to the best of our knowledge.

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