California has the dubious distinction of having the nation’s highest poverty rate, mostly because of its high costs of living, especially housing. It is No. 1 with a 20.4 percent poverty rate, more than twice that of No. 50 Vermont.
The Public Policy Institute of California and Stanford University’s Center on Poverty followed suit, calculated poverty rates for the state’s 58 counties.
Their California Poverty Measure currently tabs the state’s rate at 19.5 percent with Los Angeles County the highest at 24.9 percent and Placer County the lowest at 13.1 percent.
PPIC and Stanford also calculated an additional “near-poverty” rate of 19.2 percent, which implies that nearly 40 percent of Californians are coping with economic distress.
United Ways of California, a coalition of local organizations that raise money for charities, commissioned “Struggling to Stay Afloat,” which delves into poverty not only at the state and county levels, but right down to neighborhoods. The new study breaks down the data not only geographically, but by race or ethnicity, gender, occupation, marital status, education and other factors.
Overall, it found that “1 in 3 households in California, over 3.3 million families – including those with incomes well above the (official) federal poverty level – struggle every month to meet basic needs.”
Latinos have the highest poverty of any ethnic group, with 53 percent of households having incomes that fall below the “real cost measure.” The incomes deemed to be adequate vary widely from community to community, depending on local living costs.
Raising minimum wages and welfare grants and offering a state tax credit to the working poor may have some impacts on the margin. However, the extra incomes they generate are quickly consumed by higher housing costs, plus the higher gas taxes, local sales taxes and energy bills being imposed to deal with other political priorities.
California’s shameful status as the nation’s most poverty-ridden state.