Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
What Should Be Done to Lower California's Highest-in-Nation Poverty Rate?
By admin
Published 6 months ago on
November 5, 2023

Share

The numbers of Californians living in poverty or near-poverty edged upward this year as federal pandemic programs expired, according to a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California and Stanford University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality.

Dan Walters with a serious expression

Dan Walters

CalMatters

Opinion

Currently, 13.2% of California’s nearly 40 million residents live in families which fall below the $39,000 annual income mark deemed the minimum for a family of four to meet its needs. The rate climbs to 31.1% if those in near-poverty (incomes up to $60,000) are included.

The California Poverty Measure, or CPM, is derived from the federal Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, or SPM, which was devised to cure the deficiencies of the official poverty rate, a one-size-fits-all data point that measures just some income but is not adjusted for the cost of living.

Both the California and the census rates use wider arrays of income and measures them against what it costs to live. The SPM varies by state while the California measure is calculated for counties as well as the state.

Although the methodology varies a bit, the Census Bureau’s SPM rate for California, 13.2%, is identical to the California measure rate and is the highest of any state. Within California, Los Angeles County has the highest CPM rate at 15.5%, followed by San Diego County at 15%.

While California’s SPM rate is the nation’s highest because of its costs of living vis-à-vis its income levels, Los Angeles and San Diego rates are the state’s highest because their housing costs outstrip incomes for their many low-income service workers and their families.

Most Poor Families Include Working Adults

About three-quarters of California’s poor families have at least one working adult. Latino Californians have the highest poverty rate at 16.9%, followed by Black Californians at 13.6%.

So there are the numbers. California has the nation’s highest functional poverty rate and Los Angeles County, which has about a quarter of the state’s population, leads the state. The natural question is what, if anything, could be done to lower those rates?

To date, federal and state authorities have concentrated on directly or indirectly raising incomes of the poor through subsidies – such as CalFresh food assistance – rather than lowering their living costs. While the state has policies aimed at fostering more construction of housing for low-income families, the success rate has so far been minimal at best.

The income supplements do have an effect, the PPIC-Stanford study has found. Without CalFresh, earned income tax credits and other subsidies California’s poverty rate would top 20%.

The holy grail of anti-poverty groups in California is a guaranteed income – cash payments sufficient to lift people out of poverty. There are some local cash assistance programs underway around the state to test the theory’s viability.

The data translates into a little more than 5 million people or about 1.5 million families in poverty. On average, it would take, conservatively, about $10,000 per family per year to raise all to at least the $39,000 figure, or perhaps $15 billion – the equivalent of a 5% increase in the state budget.

It’s not an outlandish figure when placed in context. Were California to consider such a step, it would make even more sense to put all of the federal and state funds now being spent on subsidies in the pot to eliminate the management costs and the hassle they entail.

There would be some potential downsides to such an effort – not the mention the politics of taking such a radical step. Landlords and stores might raise prices to peel off some of the extra incomes and some recipients might quit working, thus exacerbating California’s labor shortage.

However, it’s worth considering

About the Author

Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times. CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more columns by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.

Make Your Voice Heard

GV Wire encourages vigorous debate from people and organizations on local, state, and national issues. Submit your op-ed to rreed@gvwire.com for consideration. 

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Boeing’s Financial Woes Continue, While Families of Crash Victims Urge US to Prosecute

DON'T MISS

Police Tangle With Students in Texas and California as Wave of Campus Protest Against Gaza War Grows

DON'T MISS

Meet the Valley Republican Predicting a November Win Over Esmeralda Soria

DON'T MISS

Wired Wednesday: Construction Workers on 2018 Fresno Unified Project Still Not Paid

DON'T MISS

Slumping California Risks Losing World’s ‘5th Largest Economy’ Title

DON'T MISS

Ukraine Uses Long-Range Missiles Secretly Provided by US to Hit Russian-Held Areas, Officials Say

DON'T MISS

Upward Bound: Edison High’s Garcia Headed to Johns Hopkins

DON'T MISS

Boxing Star Ryan Garcia Wants to Meet Netanyahu, Pledges Aid for Gaza Children

DON'T MISS

Fong Won’t Debate Boudreaux, but We Get Hot Topic Answers Anyway

DON'T MISS

Legislation Pandering to Tribal Casinos Is a Bad Bet for Fresno Cardroom Employees

UP NEXT

Newsom Criticizes Local Response to Homelessness. He Should Look in the Mirror.

UP NEXT

By Remembering the Genocide, We Can Help Rebuild Armenia

UP NEXT

Californians Worry About Crime, Setting up a Ballot Measure Showdown

UP NEXT

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

UP NEXT

Will State AG Rob Bonta Jump Into 2026 Race for CA Governor?

UP NEXT

Local Leaders Must Put Their Shoulders Into Making Fresno ‘Education City USA’

UP NEXT

Carbon Capture Isn’t Nearly as ‘Green’ as Fossil Fuel Promoters Make It Sound

UP NEXT

CA’s High Construction Costs Limit Housing. A Supreme Court Decision Might Help

UP NEXT

A Fresno Edition of Monopoly? That’s Capitalism at Work, Baby!

UP NEXT

Biden’s Embrace of Trump’s Tariffs Could Spell Trouble for His Reelection: Fareed Zakaria

Wired Wednesday: Construction Workers on 2018 Fresno Unified Project Still Not Paid

5 hours ago

Slumping California Risks Losing World’s ‘5th Largest Economy’ Title

6 hours ago

Ukraine Uses Long-Range Missiles Secretly Provided by US to Hit Russian-Held Areas, Officials Say

7 hours ago

Upward Bound: Edison High’s Garcia Headed to Johns Hopkins

Local Education /

9 hours ago

Boxing Star Ryan Garcia Wants to Meet Netanyahu, Pledges Aid for Gaza Children

9 hours ago

Fong Won’t Debate Boudreaux, but We Get Hot Topic Answers Anyway

9 hours ago

Legislation Pandering to Tribal Casinos Is a Bad Bet for Fresno Cardroom Employees

10 hours ago

About 1 in 4 US Adults Over 50 Say They Expect to Never Retire, an AARP Study Finds

11 hours ago

Biden Signs a $95 Billion War Aid Measure With Assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

11 hours ago

Ancestry Website to Catalogue Names of Japanese Americans Incarcerated During World War II

11 hours ago

Boeing’s Financial Woes Continue, While Families of Crash Victims Urge US to Prosecute

Boeing said Wednesday that it lost $355 million on falling revenue in the first quarter, another sign of the crisis gripping the aircraft ma...

4 hours ago

4 hours ago

Boeing’s Financial Woes Continue, While Families of Crash Victims Urge US to Prosecute

5 hours ago

Police Tangle With Students in Texas and California as Wave of Campus Protest Against Gaza War Grows

CA District 27 Assembly candidate Joanna Garcia Rose
5 hours ago

Meet the Valley Republican Predicting a November Win Over Esmeralda Soria

5 hours ago

Wired Wednesday: Construction Workers on 2018 Fresno Unified Project Still Not Paid

6 hours ago

Slumping California Risks Losing World’s ‘5th Largest Economy’ Title

7 hours ago

Ukraine Uses Long-Range Missiles Secretly Provided by US to Hit Russian-Held Areas, Officials Say

Local Education /
9 hours ago

Upward Bound: Edison High’s Garcia Headed to Johns Hopkins

9 hours ago

Boxing Star Ryan Garcia Wants to Meet Netanyahu, Pledges Aid for Gaza Children

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend