The average poor working adult in California makes $28,000 annually — barely enough to pay for rent, food, and bills.
Federal and state aid helped buoy millions of families nationwide during the pandemic, but many people have slipped back into poverty now that those aid programs have ended, according to a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California.
As Alejandra Reyes-Velarde of CalMatters’ California Divide team explains, the state’s poverty rate climbed in the first quarter of 2023 — increasing from 11.7% in 2021 to 13.2% — despite an improving economy. That brings the total to about 5 million people in California living in poverty.
The report also showed how poverty rates varied by demographic, occupation, and region:
- Latinos make up about half of Californians living in poverty, despite being 39.7% of the population.
- Workers in the service industry and agriculture tended to experience poverty at higher rates than other labor sectors; workers in food preparation and service have a 16% poverty rate.
- San Diego and Los Angeles counties endure the highest poverty rates, while the Central Valley and Sierra counties experience the lowest.
One of the reasons why different regions experience different poverty rates is the cost of living. Poor Californians in counties with higher costs of living may earn incomes that render them ineligible for aid that’s based on federal poverty thresholds — but still extremely poor for where they live.
Learn more about the latest number on California’s poverty rates at this link.
CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.