High cost of living and low wages drive up child poverty rate in California – Orange County Register


Nearly a quarter of California children 5 years old and younger live in poverty, according to a new report that examines the impact of the cost of living and family income on the state’s youngest residents.

The report, titled “Reducing Child Poverty in California,” found that 31 percent of “poor” families spend more than half of their income on housing, making it difficult to meet basic needs, such as food and health care. Five percent of families in the state live in “deep poverty,” meaning they have less than half the resources they need, states the report, published by Public Policy Institute of California.

The report defines “poor” using the California Poverty Measure, which is based on work income, social service benefits, such as food stamps, and cost of living in various regions of the state. Using that measure, the income level defining poverty is generally higher than that used to set the federal poverty level. For instance, in 2015 the California Poverty Measure defined poverty as income ranging from $20,083 to $39,115 for a family of four with two children, depending on the where the family lived. By comparison, the federal poverty threshold was $24,250 for a family of four for that same year. California has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, the report finds.

“I think the numbers are shocking for most Californians,” said Sarah Bohn, researcher and co-author of the report. To assess the status of California families, “we look at the unemployment rate and state median income but there is a lot going on under the surface that is not reflected in those broad numbers,” Bohn said.

Bohn said the institute’s research found that among poor families with young children, 78 percent of adults work in low-wage jobs, which is more than twice the rate among all working adults, the report states. Poor families are also more likely to be “housing burdened,” which the report…

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