What Is Economic Self-Reliance?

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Economic self-reliance refers to an individual being able to supply his own needs without external assistance. It refers to the amount of income needed to satisfy basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, without receiving public assistance like food stamps, Medicaid, child care, public housing or aid from family or friends. As an economic measure, self-reliance is a measure of one’s operating income versus operating expenses.

Economic self-reliance is used to determine the health of an individual or populous. The measure takes into account all primary budget items faced by working adults. Quantifiable self-reliance calculations are used to determine an individual or community’s financial independence. The criteria used to determine self-reliance varies by geography and family composition. The most widely used model for determining self-reliance is the Self-Sufficiency Standard. This model is regarded as the updated version of the federal poverty level. The traditional federal poverty level is simply a benchmark and only analyzes the cost of food in a uniform fashion regardless of family composition or location.

In addition to the basic necessities, economic self-reliance requires a person to be able to afford his health care, transportation and miscellaneous goods such as medicine and cleaning products. Models such as the Self-Sufficiency Standard are vital for better understanding issues of financial adequacy, to create policy and to help individuals strive to meet their basic needs.