THE ECONOMIC SECURITY DATABASE
The Basic Economic Security
Tables™ (BEST) Index and the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index)
measure the income workers and elders need to achieve security in specific cities,
counties and states. These budgets present data specific to family type and location,
and reflect a modern economy and contemporary understanding of how families achieve
financial stability. The indexes allow a sufficiently broad perspective of worker
and retiree needs, and speak to the prospects of achieving the economic security
so critical to the futures of families and communities.
The Definitions of BEST Expenses
and Definitions of Elder Index Expenses
pages contain information on the data sources and assumptions used in developing
the data. Additional information on the development of BEST and Elder Index data
can be found in their respective methodology reports:
BEST and Elder Index values are updated or inflated semi-annually.
In addition to the data collected, WOW produces state-specific index reports. State
reports and supplementary materials—policy briefs, methodology reports and other
materials—can be found on WOW’s Family Economic Security Program homepage and Elder
Initiative homepage. Please contact WOW
if you are interested in developing data, policy briefs, economic security benchmarking
and demographic reports, or related materials for your state.
THE BEST AND ELDER INITIATIVES
The national BEST Initiative is a research-driven effort to raise awareness of the
true cost of lifelong economic security. The BEST combines coalition-building, research,
advocacy and outreach at the federal, state and local levels to promote and protect
the economic well-being of low- and moderate-income families. By looking at what
it takes to make ends meet and plan for the future, the BEST offers a new resource
to those interested in creating an economy where economic security across a lifetime
and across generations is within reach even for low- and middle-income households.
BEST INDEX USERS INCLUDE:
Workers and Their Families—The BEST Index shows how much income workers need
to cover basic monthly expenses and develop assets for long-term economic security.
Because the BEST varies by location, family size and age of children, the BEST can
be used to determine the price of economic security for a wide variety of families
across the country.
Legislators, Administrators and Advocates—The BEST Index demonstrates the
true cost of economic security and helps determine what policies are most effective
in helping working families bridge the gap between wages and security. The data
can be used to define good jobs, evaluate economic development, and evaluate and
design programs and public policies designed to help families attain genuine, long-term
Workers and Future Workers Planning for the Future—The BEST Index can help
young adults and workers understand financial needs, plan education and training,
and identify career paths that lead to economic security.
Economic Development and Financial Services Professionals—The BEST Index
provides aspirational goals for families and communities and a benchmark for evaluating
economic development projects. These tables can serve as part of a blueprint for
job creation that provides pathways to economic security wages.
For more information on BEST uses, visit the Family Economic Security Program homepage and/or see
The Basic Economic Security Tables for the United States.
Elder Economic Security Initiative™ offers a conceptual framework and concrete
tools to build economic security for elders and their families. The Initiative combines
research, organizing, education, advocacy and outreach at the national, state and
community levels. Through the Elder Initiative, WOW and its partners work to raise
awareness and promote policy and program change to build economic security for today’s
retirees and future generations. WOW’s policy goals include, among others: strengthening
Social Security; expanding access to home and community-based long-term care; improving
community-based aging services; advancing access to financial planning and literacy
opportunities; and educating the public on the availability of service and supports
that diminish the income gap.
ELDER INDEX USERS INCLUDE:
Single Elders and Elder Couples—The Elder Index measures the income single
elders and elder couples need in order to be secure in their own homes based on
their location, housing situation and health status. Single elders, elder couples,
and those who care about or care for older Americans can use the Elder Index to
see the retirement income that allows economic security.
Legislators, Administrators and Advocates—The Elder Index shows the real
cost of security, and helps determine what policies are most appropriate in bringing
elders closer to their goal of aging in their homes. The data can be used to evaluate
the effectiveness of current policies and programs that advance economic security
for retirees living at home.
Younger Adults and Families Planning for Retirement—The Elder Index helps
workers who want a secure retirement plan ahead. The Elder Index can help workers
determine what they will need to live in economic security and what personal finance
and public policy changes may make this possible.
For more information on Elder Index uses, see WOW’s regularly updated “Tracking Our Successes across the States”, a summary of
success in the areas of capacity building, direct service, policy, advocacy, outreach
WOW thanks the researchers, policy area experts, initiative advisory boards and
state partners throughout the country that have participated in the discussion of
workers’ and elders’ needs and the definition of economic security.
Thanks to The Atlantic
Philanthropies and the Retirement Research Foundation,
whose generous support made the development of the Elder Economic Security Standard™
Index and the Elder Economic Security Initiative™ possible.
Special thanks to Ellen Bruce, Jan Mutchler, Alison Gottlieb and Laura Henze Russell
for their contributions to the development of the Elder Index at the Gerontology
Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Thanks to the Ford Foundation,
the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and
state partner organizations across the country who have supported the Family Economic
Security Program and the BEST Initiative.
Special thanks to BEST report co-authors Dr. Yunju Nam, of the School of Social Work at the University at Buffalo, State
University of New York, and Yung Soo Lee, of the Center for Social Development.
WOW also thanks Dr. Michael Sherraden, Director of the Center for Social Development,
for his contributions to the BEST methodology and reports.
Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) works nationally and in its home community of
Washington, DC to achieve economic independence and equality of opportunity for
women and their families at all stages of life. For over 45 years, WOW has been
a leader in the areas of nontraditional employment, job training and education,
welfare-to-work and workforce development policy. Since 1995, WOW has been devoted
to the self-sufficiency of women and their families through the national Family
Economic Security (FES) Project. Through FES, WOW has reframed the national debate
on social policies and programs from one that focuses on poverty to one that focuses
on what it takes families to make ends meet. Building on FES, WOW has expanded to
meet its intergenerational mission of economic independence for women at all stages
of life with the Elder Economic Security Initiative.
The Center for Social Development conducts research that informs how individuals,
families, and communities increase capacity, formulate and reach life goals, and
contribute to the economy and society. The Center for Social Development’s principal
focus is on families and communities at the bottom of society. Major areas of work
include Asset Building and Civic Engagement & Service.
The Gerontology Institute, John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies,
University of Massachusetts Boston addresses social and economic issues associated
with population aging. The Institute conducts research, analyzes policy issues,
and engages in public education. It also encourages the participation of older people
in aging services and policy development. In its work with local, state, national,
and international organizations, the Institute has five priorities:
- productive aging, that is, opportunities for older people to play useful social
- health care for the elderly;
- long-term care for the elderly;
- economic security for older adults; and
- social and demographic research on aging.
The Institute pays particular attention to the special needs of low-income and minority
The Atlantic Philanthropies are dedicated to bringing about lasting changes in the
lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Atlantic Philanthropies are committed
to making improvements in the lives of people who need change the most. Together
with grantees, the foundation endeavors to make lasting changes for people who are
disadvantaged by their economic situation, race, nationality, gender, age, disabilities,
immigration status, sexual orientation, political affiliation or religion.
The Kellogg Foundation’s programming emphases on Education & Learning; Food, Health
& Well-Being; and Family Economic Security all play interconnected roles in creating
an environment in which vulnerable children are protected, nurtured, equipped and
stimulated to succeed. This framework also recognizes that the active pursuit of
racial equity, the eradication of structural racism, and the rigorous encouragement
of civic and philanthropic engagement are essential to creating a social context
in which all children can thrive, including the most vulnerable. With this framework,
and a sharpened focus on the nearly 30 million vulnerable children in the United
States, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has reaffirmed its commitment to W.K. Kellogg’s
goal in creating the foundation in 1930: “...to help children face the future with
confidence, with health, and with a strong-rooted security in the trust of this
country and its institutions."
The Ford Foundation encourages initiatives by those living and working closest to where problems are located; promotes collaboration among the nonprofit, government and business sectors; and ensures participation by men and women from diverse communities and all levels of society. It works mainly by making grants or loans that build knowledge and strengthen organizations and networks. Created with gifts and bequests by Edsel and Henry Ford, the foundation is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, with its own board, and is entirely separate from the Ford Motor Company. Program officers in the United States, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America explore opportunities to pursue the foundation’s goals, formulate strategies and recommend proposals for funding.