SAN FRANCISCO, September 30, 2013—A new way of measuring poverty in California—accounting for regional variation in the cost of living and the impact of social programs for those in need—shows that 22 percent of residents lived in poor families in 2011, according to a report released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). This is higher than the U.S. Census Bureau’s official poverty rate of 16 percent for California. In other words, there were 8.1 million Californians living in poverty, over 2 million more than estimated by the official poverty measure.
According to the new California Poverty Measure, poverty rates were highest for children (25.1%) and lower for working-age adults (21.4%) and adults age 65 and older (18.9%). Poverty rates in the state’s three most populous counties ranged from 22.7 percent in San Diego to 24.3 percent in Orange to 26.9 percent in Los Angeles.
The California Poverty Measure underscores the importance of the social safety net for many families in the state. Programs included in the measure supplement family resources substantially. These programs include CalFresh, the state’s food stamp program; CalWORKs, the state’s cash assistance program; and the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. Without these and other need-based programs, 30 percent of Californians would be counted as poor in this new measure. For children, the impact is even more dramatic: 39 percent—or 3.6 million California children—would be considered poor. For working-age and older adults, the combined role of these programs was smaller but still considerable.