How Much You Need to Make to Live in MN

How Much You Need to Make to Live in MN

Image: Data for Nicollet County from Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for the Cost of Living Tool that provides a yearly estimate of the basic-needs cost of living in Minnesota by county, region and statewide.

Here’s how much you need to make to live in Minnesota

by Max Nesterak, Minnesota Reformer
February 14, 2024

A single person in the Twin Cities metro area needs to earn $47,442 a year — about $22 an hour — to afford the basics: food, housing, health care, transportation and a cell phone. For a family of four, the parents need to earn at least $119,229 a year — or about $28 an hour each.

That’s according to the Economic Policy Institute’s latest Family Budget Calculator, which estimates how much it costs to make ends meet across America.

The cost of living far exceeds the minimum wage in Minnesota ($10.85 per hour) and Minneapolis ($15.57 per hour).

But the good news is most households across much of Minnesota earn more than the basic cost of living, according to the latest income estimates from the Census Bureau. For example, the median four-person household in the Twin Cities metro area — meaning half of households make more, half make less — earns $148,901 a year.

In St. Louis County, which includes Duluth, the cost of living for a family of four is $102,649 a year while the median four-person household earns $114,034. In Olmsted County, which includes Rochester, the cost of living for a family of four is $124,795 while the median four-person household earns $136,891.

You can search for what it costs to live in every county in America (according to EPI) here.


The cost of living estimates assume that families rent housing a bit cheaper than the average home, buy health insurance through the independent marketplace and that both parents are working and need to pay for child care.

While it’s called a “living wage,” the estimate does not include many of the things associated with a decent living: retirement savings, vacations, movie tickets, Christmas presents or dinners at sit-down restaurants. Rather, the Family Budget Calculator aims to show the bare minimum needed to survive without government assistance.

Unsurprisingly, Minnesota is affordable for more people than those living in or near major cities, especially on the coasts. For example, in the county encompassing Boston, Mass., the cost of living for a family of four is $148,551, but the median four-person household income is $118,046 (notably, that’s not much more than the typical Hennepin County household).

The cost of living in Manhattan is even higher — $160,147 a year for a family of four — but higher wages mean it’s affordable for most residents. The median four-person household earns $174,684 a year.

The cost of living in and around Minneapolis, Duluth and Boston, Mass. Graphic by the Economic Policy Institute.


One of the biggest drivers of affordability is housing costs. The cost of food, child care, health care and transportation don’t vary much between Minneapolis and Boston and Los Angeles, but housing does.

The impact of housing costs is also reflected in the fact that the cost of living for single people often exceeds what the typical single-person household earns. Married couples — in addition to tax benefits — split the cost of rent or a mortgage along with the internet bill, utilities, furniture and repairs.

Last year, the Minnesota Legislature passed several new laws aimed at making the state affordable to more people, including subsidies for child care, funding for affordable housing, tax cuts for low-income residents and legislation laying the groundwork for a public option for health insurance.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development also estimates the cost of living for households across the state using somewhat different methodology. Their estimates, which are based on slightly older data, are significantly lower. For example, they estimate a single person in Hennepin County needs to earn about $37,000 a year and a family of four needs to earn $104,706.

Christopher Ingraham contributed reporting.

Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

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