Bringing the Economy Home

It’s More Expensive To ‘Get By’ In Rural Idaho Than Boise

EPI says it costs $48,720 for a family of three to live in Boise.

ImahinasyonPhotography / Flickr Creative Commons

EPI says it costs $48,720 for a family of three to live in Boise.

It costs more to get by in rural Idaho than it does in Boise, the state’s population center. That’s according to the Economic Policy Institute’s family budget calculator.

A family of four living in Boise needs $56,491 per year. A family of four in rural Idaho needs $58,071.

Here’s a comparison of what it costs for a family of four, two parents and two children, to live in four different parts of Idaho.

Costs For 2 Parents + 2 Children
Boise-MSAIdaho FallsLewiston Rural Idaho
Annual Total$56,491$54,939$54,601$58,071
Monthly Housing$724$671$657$648
Monthly Food$754$754$754$754
Monthly Child Care$846$846$846$846
Monthly Transportation$607$603$603$717
Monthly Health Care$1,295$1,277$1,277$1,355
Monthly Other Necessities $378$365$361$359
Monthly Taxes$104$63$53$161
Monthly Total$4,708$4,578$4,550$4,839

Source: Economic Policy Institute

EPI’s calculator measures the cost of housing, food, transportation, health care, child care, taxes and other necessities to determine a “secure and modest” cost of living. This calculator is available for 615 areas and six family types.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau Idaho’s median household income in 2011 was $43,341. That means half of Idaho households make less than that each year.

You can read about EPI’s methodology here. Here is the interactive calculator.


  • Kevino

    $1,580 isn’t too crazy of a difference, but I wonder what this means compared to average family incomes from Boise and Rural. Who gets more “disposable” income to spend on things like entertainment? A family of 4 can spend a lot on entertainment.

  • Marisa Lynn Gibler

    Who in the world is spending more than $1K/ month on healthcare?? That’s supposed to be average?

    • Marisa Lynn Gibler

      Also, as the mother of two, I can EASILY feed the four of us on less than $500/ month. Where are they getting these numbers?

      • Marisa, thanks for the feedback. You can read about EPI’s methodology here:

        • Marisa Lynn Gibler

          Regarding food costs, the link you provided says, “The data are only available at the national level, and are thus the same for all family budget areas (except Alaska and Hawaii, which are discussed later). Since the costs of raw, unprepared foods vary relatively little over geographic areas and the data present only nationally representative costs of raw, unprepared foods, our calculations for costs of food vary only by the size of the family and not by geographical area.” This is NOT any sort of measure of actual cost of food in each region.

          They also decided to use the TOTAL cost of insurance premiums, INCLUDING the employer’s contribution. Yes, I saw the comment with their reasoning, but it doesn’t make any sense.

          I can’t be sure, but it appears that they also added in the average out-of-pocket cost for healthcare, nationwide. That means it included the out-of-pocket cost for people with no insurance. That would be double-counting the amount covered by insurance for those insured.

          Many of these numbers are inaccurate, generalized information, and are not representative of our actual location. It’s hardly a useful tool to claim that one area of the state is more or less expensive to live in- the margin of error alone would make up for a swing of $300/month.

          • Thanks for the feedback, this is very useful. It’s quite difficult to find precise cost of living data for regional areas that isn’t skewed in one director or another. It’s either skewed up, and represents the upper-middle class or it’s skewed to represent people living below the federal poverty line. We tried to do our own reporting on the cost of living in Idaho and here’s what we came up with: As we mention in both posts, neither is exact, but it’s an idea of what’s going on.

  • Marsha

    Try living on a monthly income of $1150.00 a month and see how far you get.

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