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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:

The Basic Economic Security Database is made possible through a partnership between the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). The Elder Index was developed by the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Wider Opportunities for Women, and is currently maintained through a partnership between the Gerontology Institute and NCOA. The BEST Index was developed by Wider Opportunities for Women and the Center for Social Development at Washington University-St. Louis, and is maintained by IWPR.



By looking at what it takes to make ends meet and plan for the future, the BEST Index offers a 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.


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 economic security.

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.


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.


Special thanks is offered to Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) for their comprehensive work to develop the BEST and Elder Index, and to support the use of these databases by state and local partners throughout the nation.

Thank you to the researchers, policy area experts, initiative advisory boards, and state partners throughout the country that participated in the discussion of workers’ and elders’ needs and the definition of economic security and informed the development of the BEST and Elder Index.

Thanks also goes to The Atlantic Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, Retirement Research Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, whose generous support made the development of these tools and their dissemination 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.

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. Thank you also to Dr. Michael Sherraden, Director of the Center for Social Development, for his contributions to the BEST methodology and reports.

National Council on Aging (NCOA)

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020.

Institute for Women’s Policy Research

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialogue, and strengthen families, communities, and societies. The Institute works with policymakers, scholars, and public interest groups to design, execute, and disseminate research that illuminates economic and social policy issues affecting women and their families, and to build a network of individuals and organizations that conduct and use women-oriented policy research. IWPR's work is supported by foundation grants, government grants and contracts, donations from individuals, and contributions from organizations and corporations. IWPR is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization that also works in affiliation with the women's studies and public policy and public administration programs at The George Washington University.

Center for Social Development, Washington University in St. Louis

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.

Gerontology Institute—University of Massachusetts Boston

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:

  1. productive aging, that is, opportunities for older people to play useful social roles;
  2. health care for the elderly;
  3. long-term care for the elderly;
  4. economic security for older adults; and
  5. social and demographic research on aging.

The Institute pays particular attention to the special needs of low-income and minority elderly.