California & Poverty

This article from New Geography about a new study on poverty in California is tragically eye-opening.

An excerpt.

Across the nation, progressives increasingly look at California as a model state. This tendency has increased as climate change has emerged as the Democratic Party’s driving issue. To them, California’s recovery from a very tough recession is proof positive that you can impose ever greater regulation on everything from housing to electricity and still have a thriving economy.

And to be sure, the state has finally recovered the jobs lost in the 2007-09 recession, largely a result of a boom in values of stocks and high- end real estate. Things, however, have not been so rosy in key blue-collar fields, such as construction, which is still more than 200,000 jobs below prerecession levels, or manufacturing, where the state has lost over one-third of its employment since 2000. Homelessness, which one would think should be in decline during a strong economy, is on the rise in Orange County and even more so in Los Angeles.

The dirty secret here is that a large proportion of Californians, roughly one-third, or some 3.2 million households, as found by a recent United Way study, find it increasingly difficult to keep their heads above water. The United Way study, surprisingly, has drawn relatively little interest from a media that usually enjoys highlighting disparities, particularly racial gaps. Perhaps this reflects a need to maintain an illusion of blue state success. If Republican Pete Wilson were still governor, I suspect we might have heard much more about this study.

State of Poverty

The United Way study – “Struggling to Get By” – delves well beyond even the recent Census Bureau analysis, which, by factoring in housing costs, already established California as the state with the highest percentage of poor people, at roughly one in four. United Way expanded this percentage by calculating what the charitable organization called the “Real Cost Budget,” which includes not only rent but also costs for child care, medical, health and transportation.

By United Way’s calculation, roughly one in three Californians can barely make ends meet, despite the state’s relatively generous transfer payments, subsidies and general assistance. Latinos and African Americans, as one might expect, fare worse, but roughly one-in-five non-Hispanic whites and 28 percent of Asians also are deemed struggling.

Roughly half of Latino households fall into this condition of poverty or near-poverty, as do a similar share of African American households. Those who do worst generally are poorly educated single mothers and their children. Poverty and near-poverty are greatest among Latinos, who also are bearing the majority of children. It is hard to imagine a more urgent wake-up call.

Not surprisingly, many of the foreign-born, the source of much of California’s population growth in recent decades, have fared poorly. Only 25 percent of households headed by native-born Californians fall below the United Way “Real Cost Budget” line for economic distress, but it’s 45 percent for those headed by the foreign-born, and nearly 60 percent for families headed by a noncitizen. The highest percentage is among Latino households headed by a noncitizen – a staggering 80 percent fall below the minimal level.

Geographic variations

California’s rising ranks of poor and near-poor – essentially the proleterianized middle class – are not heavily concentrated in the Bay Area, which has sparked the state’s ballyhooed comeback. There, only one in four fall under the minimal “Real Cost Budget,” the best result among California’s major urban regions.

In contrast, in both Los Angeles-Orange County and the Inland Empire, some 35 percent of households fall below this level. The toll is particularly extreme for Latinos in greater Los Angeles; some 54 percent can be counted poor or near-poor, the highest proportion of any California region. Overall, the worst poverty in the state appears to be in the Central Valley, where, despite lower housing costs, 37 percent of residents struggle to make ends meet.

Retrieved August 10, 2015 from http://www.ocregister.com/articles/percent-676592-california-state.html

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
This entry was posted in Government, Homelessness. Bookmark the permalink.