What does the benefits cliff look like?
We created the Buncombe County benefits cliff simulator to highlight how the benefits cliff works. The simulator reveals the relationship between monthly income or hourly wages and the corresponding benefits amount for six different benefit types. Any sudden drop in benefits is the benefits cliff. Monthly income is shown at the bottom, while hourly wages are at the top. Hourly wages represent the benefits one might be entitled to working 40 hours a week. Keep in mind that the federal and North Carolina minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
As a note of caution, benefit amounts depend on factors beyond income and we make assumptions about these factors. These assumptions can be viewed on our methodology page. Given these non-income assumptions, the benefit amounts should be seen as estimates and not exact figures.
Further, benefit amounts and poverty thresholds depend on family size and sometimes the age of children. Therefore, the simulator lets users select family size, and the age of children are assumed as follows:
- 1 child in family: 2 years old.
- 2 children in family: 2 and 4 years old.
- 3 children in family: 2, 4, and 10 years old; and only the 2 and 4 year old receive child care subsidies.
The simulator highlights the benefits cliff’s hazards. A three-person family with two children, for example, risks losing over $1,100 in child care subsidies per month with an inconsequential change in full-time wages from $21.00 per hour to about $21.25.