Report Finds 8 Million California Residents Lived in Poverty in 2011
The figure is significantly higher than federal estimates of nearly 6 million state residents living in poverty that year.
Federal poverty estimates for California and other states use a formula from 1964 that defines poverty as income less than three times the cost of a "minimum diet," which would have been $22,811 for a family of four in 2011.
However, some observers have called this method outdated because food is a smaller part of most families' budgets than it was 50 years ago.
Details of Report
The study was conducted by researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.
Unlike federal figures, the study's poverty estimates include:
- Government benefits;
- Housing prices;
- Health care costs; and
- Other expenditures (Olson, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/30).
According to the report, the poverty rate in California was about 22% in 2011, the highest in the U.S. and significantly higher than the official rate of 16% (Holland, Los Angeles Times, 9/30).
When the study factored in cost of living:
- Poverty rates increased in places with high housing costs and other expenses, such as Orange County and the San Francisco Bay Area; and
- Poverty rates decreased in areas where housing is less expensive, such as some Northern California and Central Valley counties (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/30).
For example, the report found that 2011 poverty rates were:
- 27% in Los Angeles County, compared with a federal estimate of 18% (Los Angeles Times, 9/30);
- 20.4% in Riverside County, compared with a federal estimate of 15.9%; and
- 19.5% in San Bernardino County, compared with a federal estimate of 18.4%.
Sarah Bohn -- lead author and research fellow at PPI -- said the report is "the most realistic, up-to-date, comprehensive view of [poverty] that we've ever had in California."
Ken Sawa -- CEO of Catholic Charities-San Bernardino and Riverside Counties -- said he hopes the findings will "open discussion on what the real expenses are that families face" and lead to a change in the formula for estimating poverty rates (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.