In order to begin building the LAHSAI model, it was important to define what it meant to be a Jewish, middle-income family living in Los Angeles. We began by using research from the California Budget Project report of 2007 to determine the cost of living in Los Angeles for a family of four with two working parents. Expenses such as housing and utilities costs, child care, transportation, food, health care and taxes were included in the study. The following table shows a comparison between the 2007 and 2013 cost of living in Los Angeles data:
Then, we considered the additional costs associated with living a “Jewishly-engaged” life, including tuition for two children in high school, the cost of kosher food, synagogue membership, summer camp or Israel trips, property taxes and home values in certain predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, as well as college savings, life insurance premiums, and income tax based on the 33% tax bracket. The following table shows a comparison between 2007 and 2013 estimated Jewish cost of living:
With this information, we determined that a family with two children in high school would have to be making over $300,000 gross adjusted income in order to comfortably afford to pay full tuition at one of the five participating high schools. With the financial aid “ceiling” in most schools at $150k, an entire swath of the community, which is now defined as middle-income, was priced out of a Jewish high school education for their children.
We began to educate school and community leadership in thinking critically about how to re-engage this large and important demographic in our community—by addressing accessibility and affordability and limiting the financial constraints that so often prevent a Jewish family from choosing a Jewish high school.