Cost of Living Calculator Methodology

Family Composition

The Cost of Living Calculator assumes the adults are working and are non-elderly.


Calculator assumes the family lives in rental housing and assumes the following apartment sizes:

1 bedroom = 1 adult

2-bedroom = 1 or 2 adults with up to 2 children

3-bedroom = 1 or 2 adults with 3 or 4 children

Rental costs are based on FY2014 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Fair Market Rent for the Providence metropolitan area which includes the vast majority of Rhode Island cities and towns. Rent includes all utilities except telephone.


Food costs are based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Moderate- Cost Plan (June 2014) for the nation.

The cost for each adult is the average costs for adults 19-50.  The cost for children uses the following:

For an infant, the cost for a 1 year old; for a preschool child, the average of the costs for a 2-3 year old and a 4-5 year old; for a school-aged child, the average of the costs for a 6-8 year old and 9-11 year old; for a teenager, the average of the costs for a 12-13 and 14-18 for male and female. Adjustments for family size, as recommended by USDA, are also made.

These costs do not account for regional variation, which the Economic Research Service at USDA estimated to be 8 percent higher in the Northeast than the nationwide numbers. Food costs do not include the cost of any meals eaten outside the home.


Costs are based on U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 3rd quarter 2012 through 2nd quarter 2013 and include the cost for gas, motor oil and other vehicle expenses, exclusive of purchase. The cost is based on household size and number of earners in the household.

Child Care

Child care costs are based on the Statewide Survey of Child Care Costs in Rhode Island, 2013, conducted by the Charles Schmidt Jr. Labor Research Center of the University of Rhode Island and co-sponsored by the RI Department of Labor and Training and the RI Department of Human Services.

The cost reflects the cost of care at a child care center at the 75th percentile of the market rate.

The infant and preschooler are assumed to be in full-time daycare. The preschool cost is the average of the toddler/preschool cost.  The school-aged sibling is in after-school care, plus fourteen weeks of full-time care during school vacation and holidays. There are no child care costs for a teenager or older.

Health Care

Health care costs include the employee’s share of employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) and out-of-pocket expenses. The ESI is based on the US Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Healthcare and Quality, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (“MEPS”) (2013), which documents the cost of employer-based coverage in Rhode Island as $1,339.75/month for family coverage and $497/month for individual coverage.

According to the MEPS, Rhode Island employees pay 26.4% of the cost of family coverage and 23.5% of individual coverage. Out of pocket expenses are based on the 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for the Northeast Region, which documents out-of-pocket expenses for individuals/families as $56.47/month.

This does not include the cost of dental coverage.


Miscellaneous expenses include clothing, shoes, paper goods, over-the counter medications, personal hygiene items, cleaning and household products and telephone. The calculator shows the cost of miscellaneous expenses at 10% of other (unsubsidized) costs.


Taxes reflect total taxes net any tax credits the individual or family may be eligible to receive. 

Taxes include payroll taxes (FICA and TDI), federal and state income taxes using 2014 tax law. The sales tax is calculated based on a study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that shows the share of income paid in sales tax by gross income as follows: Incomes below $19,000, sales tax = 3.2% of income; between $19,000 and $34,000, sales tax = 2.4% of income; $34,000 and $60,000, sales tax = 2.2% of income; $60,000 and $95,000, sales tax = 1.7% of income.

Tax Credits include the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Care Tax Credit (CCTC), and the Child Tax Credit. Note that while these calculations are based on 2014 state and federal tax information, the state EITC amount is calculated as being 10% refundable as was implemented in 2015.

*Thank to our colleagues at the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy for assisting with tax calculations.