Poverty Hitting One in Six Californians

The economic recovery in California has not reached a sizable percentage of the population, with more than 16% of Californians living in poverty, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the California Budget and Policy Center.

In most California counties, the poverty rate increased from 2007 to 2014. Of the 40 California counties with available data, 32 had higher poverty rates last year than they did in 2007 before the state’s recession began, the study said.

The California Budget and Policy Center is a not-for-profit that conducts independent, nonpartisan budget analysis.

“Millions of Californians continue to struggle to meet their basic needs, even after several years of steady job gains,” the study said. “Poverty remained widespread even though the state’s unemployment rate declined from a high of 12.2% in 2010 to 7.5% in 2014.”

The federal poverty line is about $19,000 for a family of three. The overall rate fell slightly between 2012 and 2014 — by 0.6% — but the 2014 level of 16.4% is a full 4 percentage points higher than it was in 2007.

The study highlighted the differences between counties:

  • Not only was the poverty rate higher in 32 of the 40 counties with available data from 2007 to 2014, but there was no statistically significant difference in poverty rates in the other 8 counties;
  • In Lake County, the poverty rate rose to 25.9% of the population. In Kings County, 26.6% live in poverty;
  • In Lake, Kings and San Bernardino counties, the poverty rate jumped by more than 8 percentage points from 2007 to 2014; and
  • In 15 other counties, poverty rates in 2014 were 4 to 8 percentage points higher than in 2007. Most of those counties are in the Central Valley and in the Sacramento region.

“Many factors could contribute to the uneven recovery across California’s counties,” fact sheet author Alissa Anderson wrote. “These include differences in the availability of well-paying jobs and/or of sufficient work hours, as well as changes in county demographics, such as whether large numbers of people who struggle to get by move into a county.”

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