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This is no new news to anyone living in Bozeman, but as great as life is in the booming city, it’s getting pretty spendy — at least by Montana standards.

And that’s a major worry for the city’s residents. In a study released last year by the city, for instance, only 18 percent of respondents were upbeat on Bozeman’s cost of living, and only one in ten rated the city positively on its access to affordable housing.

So, given that, how much exactly does a Bozeman family need to earn to make ends meet here? And, with all the grumbling about the low wages paid by local employers, what type of jobs make it possible for a breadwinner to deliver?

Here’s a look at some numbers answering that, courtesy of a living wage calculator put together by folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and wage data collected by the federal government:

Some takeaways: Among other things, these figures indicate that Bozeman’s cost of living falls hardest on families, as opposed to childless college students and early-career professionals.

Without a kid to support, it looks like a healthy Bozemanite in their 20s can scrape by on a job paying between $10 and $11 hour, within the typical pay range even in poorly compensated industries. Add even one child to the mix, though, a single parent is looking at a wage of north of $22 an hour to make ends meet.

Even a more traditional family arrangement, with two daycare-age children and two parents working full-time, is looking at a combined annual budget of $65,367, doable if the two incomes average a $15.71-an-hour wage, or 32,684 a year.

Additionally, the cost of childcare — estimated at about $570 a month per child — is high enough to eat up a big chunk of a second income. If one partner in that two-parent, two-child family shifts careers to stay-at-home parenting, sacrificing one of two incomes saves the family budget nearly $13,700 a year.

A couple caveats — the expense estimates here are rough approximations, and MIT’s data certainly doesn't span our community's full variety of life situations and living arrangements. These numbers also don’t account for help from social service agencies, whether public or private, and assume that families without a stay-at-home parent don’t have access to free child care provided by a friend or relative.

Additionally, MIT’s housing cost numbers, based on federal rent estimates, may be low for families living in Bozeman proper. They assume that a two-parent, two-child family can rent a two-bedroom apartment for $771 a month. But current Craigslist listings for Bozeman include a couple two-bedroom apartments near the Montana State campus available in the $850 to $950 range, with most of the remaining postings looking for tenants willing to pay at least $1000 a month. (That’s still less than the bill for two kids’ worth of full-time daycare, though.)

How to go about boosting wages? For one thing, city leaders say they hope Bozeman's growth will increase the number of well-compensated local jobs as industries like software development and outdoor gear manufacturing get big enough that skilled employees can switch companies for better pay without moving to another city.

On a legislative front, efforts like boosting minimum wage have to contend with politics, namely skeptics who think a higher minimum pay would force businesses to raise prices or hire fewer people. As of this week, for example, a bill to raise Montana’s minimum wage from $8.15 to $10.10 an hour appears dead at the Montana Legislature, tabled in committee.

Bozeman Mayor Carson Taylor also floated the idea of having the city look at its own minimum wage during his state of the city address last February. However, he hasn’t brought the idea up at commission meetings since, and it’s unclear whether he’ll pursue it in the year he has remaining in office.

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Eric Dietrich can be reached at 406-582-2628 or He is on Twitter at @eidietrich.

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