Poverty Rate in California Continues to Exceed Rest of the Nation

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In the Public Policy Institute of California’s August 2013 edition of Just the Facts, it reveals that the poverty rate in California is higher than all of the US and has been since the Great Recession. In 2011, when most recent data is available, the state’s poverty rate was at 16.9 percent, while the national rate was 14.7 percent.

In 2006, California reached its lowest poverty rate in 20 years — 12 percent. While not impressive for its well being, the state now has six million living below the poverty line.

Poverty Rate in California Continues to Exceed Rest of the Nation

The U.S. Census Bureau defined the poverty line for 2011 as follows:

  •  One person under 65 years old — $11,702 annual income
  • Two person household with no children — $15,063
  • Family of four with two children under 18 — $22,811 annual income

Full data on the Census Bureau’s poverty line thresholds can be found here.

Among demographics, Latinos and African Americans in California were hit the hardest since 2007 with respective poverty rates at 23.6 percent and 24.2 percent four years after. Asian and Caucasian demographics in California had rates of 12.6 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively. Despite this gap, poverty rates in 2011 rose for every demographic.

Poverty goes beyond ethnic demographics, though. Education levels were also tightly linked to poverty rates.

The PPIC summarizes:

“In California, education has provided a buffer against poverty in the wake of the Great Recession. In 2011, the poverty rate among families headed by an adult lacking a high school diploma was 36.7%—a 5 percentage point jump from 2010.”

“At the other extreme, in families headed by a college degree holder, the poverty rate was only 5.4%. For families in which the highest level of education is a high school diploma, the poverty rate was 19.9%.”

Among 37.3 percent of families in poverty, at least one member is working full-time, while 25.6 percent have an additional member working part-time.

In a separate report this month, the PPIC found similar trends for child poverty rates. Nearly one in four children in California were living under the poverty line — about 2 million children.

Poverty rates in California vary greatly among its 58 counties:

Poverty Rate in California Continues to Exceed Rest of the Nation

Data shows that many Californians are struggling to keep up with the cost of living. There are intangible factors to poverty rates like the health of the economy, and job availability by region. What is the government’s role in the dilemma? Should they be doing more in reaction to the data, or is this a result of uncontrollable factors?

California is increasing its investment in education with an emphasis on economically disadvantaged school districts, which correlated strongly with poverty level. On a national scale, discussions of raising the minimum wage and whether or not it’ll help workers reach higher standards of living are taking place.

What is the most effective approach to the issue? Comment below to join the discussion.

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4 comments
Charlotte Dean
Charlotte Dean

Wow. My home county is dead last in poverty, and even we have homeless. Puts things in perspective. And it isn't just about funding: you're right, Alex and Mike....applying meager funding to break a dropout factory culture is harder than it sounds.

Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier

when looking at reports like this the first reaction is usually, 'not enough is being spent on education' but the real issue is what is being spent isnt getting to the right places.

Shawn M. Griffiths
Shawn M. Griffiths

It is interesting to point out that San Francisco has the same minimum wage that is being proposed on the national level and its poverty rate is about where the rest of the nation and that minimum wage was implemented near the beginning of the year so it may speak volumes to see how the rate will be affected. I am surprised the state has not raised its minimum wage actually.

Michael Higham
Michael Higham

Being spent in the right place in two senses: a economically disadvantaged school and on effective supplies and faculty. The problem with new school funding right now is the obscure accountability rules, which could hamper the entire funding formula.