It costs about $100 each month to diaper a child, just over $1,000 each year. For families living at the poverty line, with annual incomes less than $20,000 for a family of three, the cost of diapers represents about 7% of that family’s take home pay. For a mom or dad working full time at a minimum wage job however, the cost of diapers represents more like 10% of take home pay. It’s important to note that the reality of work and income for many families struggling to get by is that it is difficult to find true, full time work. Many families receiving diapers from the Diaper Bank report that they are raising more than one child on less than $500/month. For these families, the cost of diapers represents anywhere from 15-20% of their take-home pay.
The percentage of take-home pay spent on diapers may not seem significant at first glance, but when diapers are considered as one item on a long list of things every family must pay for, the struggle to provide this essential resource becomes clear. Every family must primarily consider how to secure housing and in Missouri, a worker would need to earn more than $15/hour in order to spend less than 30% of his or her take-home pay on rent. The average cost of rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in St. Louis City is $690, 75% of the monthly income of someone who works 40 hours a week at a minimum wage job.
It is impossible to make an income of $1,000/month stretch to cover $690 rent and $100 for diapers along with food, clothing, utility payments, transportation costs and childcare, which costs anywhere between $0 -$500/month for families receiving MO’s child care subsidy.
While public assistance programs like SNAP (food stamps) and WIC exist to help low-income families get the food they need, public housing or Section 8 program vouchers exist to help families find affordable housing, CHIP provides healthcare services for low-income children and TANF can provide a small cash benefit to extremely low-income families, there are NO social safety net programs that exist to help families to purchase diapers.