Median Family Income, by Legislative District and Family Type

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Learn More About Family Income and Poverty

Measures of Family Income and Poverty on
On, measures of income and poverty include estimates of:
  • The "Self-Sufficiency Standard," which measures how much income is needed for a family of a certain composition living in a particular county to adequately meet its basic needs, and the percentages of families living below the Self-Sufficiency Standard, from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development
  • Children in poverty based on the Supplemental Poverty Measure, by race/ethnicity, for California and the U.S. only
  • Children in poverty based on the Federal Poverty Level ($23,624 for a family of two adults and two children in 2013), by race/ethnicity
  • Children living above and below the Federal Poverty Level, by income level and family type
  • Children living in areas of concentrated poverty
  • Median family income (the income level at which half of families earn more and half earn less), by family type
  • Children living in low-income working families
  • Individuals receiving CalWORKs benefits, from the California Department of Social Services
Unless otherwise noted, data are estimates based on the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Depending on the indicator, breakdowns may be:
  • by City, School District, and County (65,000+ residents), as single-year estimates
  • by City, School District, and County (20,000+ residents), as 3-year estimates 
  • by City, School District, and County (10,000+ residents), as 5-year estimates
  • by Legislative District, as 5-year estimates

The Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) addresses some of the shortcomings of the Federal Poverty Level by accounting for a wider range of benefits and expenses that affect a family's economic resources. Poverty thresholds for the SPM are based on families' expenditures on food, shelter, clothing and utilities, and are adjusted for geographic differences in the cost of housing. For more information, see: 

For additional information about the differences between the measures of child poverty on, please visit:
Family Income and Poverty
Community Connectedness
Early Care and Education
Family Structure
Food Security
Disconnected Youth
Housing Affordability
Why This Topic Is Important
Poverty is a powerful factor in child development. It can alter developmental trajectories in cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical health (1, 2). Children who experience economic hardship when they are young, or who experience extreme and prolonged hardship, are at greatest risk for poor outcomes (1). Not only does poverty affect health, but also there is a health gradient along the economic spectrum, so that health status improves as income levels increase. For example, the health of those in the middle-income range tends to be inferior to the health of those in higher income groups (3). The effects of poverty and the stress associated with it can extend to later life, contributing to an increased risk for dropping out of school, poor adult health, poor employment outcomes, and low income (1, 2, 3).

Households headed by single parents or parents with low education levels generally have lower earning capacity and are more likely to be low income than other households (2). African American/Black, Latino, and American Indian children experience economic hardship at higher rates than White or Asian children, due in large part to a higher prevalence of risk factors such as single parenthood and low parent education (4). It is estimated that one percentage point increase in child poverty might cost the economy an extra $28 billion a year in the future because children who experience poverty tend to grow up earning less (4).
For more information on Family Income and Poverty please see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Evans, G. W., & Kim, P. (2013). Childhood poverty, chronic stress, self-regulation, and coping. Child Development Perspectives, 7(1), 43-48Retrieved from:

2.  Redd, Z., et al. (2011). Two generations in poverty: Status and trends among parents and children in the United States, 2000-2010 (Research Brief No. 2011-25). Child Trends. Retrieved from:

3.  Aron, L., et al. (2015). Can income-related policies improve population health? Urban Institute and Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health. Retrieved from:

4.  Nichols, A. (2013). Explaining changes in child poverty over the past four decades (Low-Income Working Families Discussion Paper No. 2). Urban Institute. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
In 2013, an estimated 24% of California children lived below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) of $23,624 annually for a family of four. The percentage of children in poverty has increased by 36% since 2007. A child's likelihood of living in poverty varies by race/ethnicity and family structure. For example, statewide estimates show that 36% of African American/Black children, 35% of American Indian/Alaska Native children, and 32% of Latino children lived below the FPL in 2013, compared to 11% of White, 12% of Asian American, and 17% of multiracial children. In addition, 40% of California children in single-parent households lived below the FPL in 2013, compared to 14% of children living with two parents. An estimated 16% of California children lived in areas of concentrated poverty, where 30% or more of the population lives below the FPL, according to 2009-13 data.
As an alternative to the Federal Poverty Level, the Census Bureau has created the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which uses a different poverty threshold based on expenses for food, shelter, clothing and utilities; it also is adjusted for geographic differences in the cost of housing. According to the SPM, about 25% of California children lived in poverty in 2013, compared to 17% nationwide. Disaggregating by race/ethnicity reveals substantial differences between groups. According to 2011-13 SPM estimates, 36% of Latino and 37% of African American/Black children were living in poverty in California, compared to 14% of White and multiracial children and 16% of Asian/Pacific Islander children.

The Self-Sufficiency Standard (SSS), another measure on, represents the estimated amount of money a family needs to adequately meet its basic needs. In 2014, the average SSSs for the six most common family types in California ranged from $43,354 to $63,979. Statewide in 2012, about half (51%) of families of all household types lived below the SSS. 

In California, the median family income was $68,222 in 2013, and ranged at the county level from $40,747 to $120,519. 

CalWORKs is a welfare program that provides cash aid and services to eligible needy families in California. In 2015, almost 1.3 million individuals in California (3.3% of the total population) received CalWORKs benefits. According to a California Budget & Policy Center report, nearly four in five (79%) of CalWORKs recipients are children. 
Policy Implications
Family poverty has multiple causes and dimensions, many of which public policy can address. Maintaining a public safety net for children whose parents do not have the resources to provide adequate food, clothing, health care, and shelter can mitigate some of the effects of poverty. Parental education and employment strategies, as well as tax policy and child support enforcement, have the potential to help lift families out of poverty. Preventing a child from growing up in poverty requires a broad policy strategy targeting diverse root causes.

According to research and subject experts, policies that could influence family income and poverty include:
  • Restoring and maintaining CalWORKs/Temporary Assistance to Needy Families cash assistance and work support to families, so that benefits support an adequate living standard and families can successfully transition from welfare to work (1)
  • Reforming state budget, taxation, and revenue policy, which would put less pressure on social services during lean budget years (2)
  • Preserving public health insurance coverage for children (3)
  • Supporting efforts to educate the public about expanded health insurance opportunities for children through the federal Affordable Care Act (3)
  • Streamlining and automating Medi-Cal eligibility and enrollment processes to ensure that all children have health coverage (3)
  • Boosting CalFresh (Food Stamps) enrollment for eligible families, through outreach and elimination of administrative barriers (1)
  • Maintaining and restoring state and federal funding for subsidized child care and early childhood programs for low-income working families (3, 4)
  • Strengthening child support enforcement programs that work effectively with non-custodial parents and ensure that support reaches the families that need it (5)
  • Providing tax incentives and funding to enhance job training and economic development programs, targeting higher-wage jobs and industries that pay workers enough to support a family (4)
For more policy ideas and information on this topic see’s Research & Links section or visit the Urban Institute, California Budget & Policy Center, Center for Law and Social Policy, or the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Also see Policy Implications on under Unemployment, Housing Affordability, and Homelessness.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Schumacher, K. (2015). Even CalWORKs and CalFresh food assistance combined fails to lift families out of poverty (Data Hit). California Budget & Policy Center. Retrieved from:

Danielson, C. (2015). California's future: Social safety net. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from:

3.  Children Now. (2014). California children's report card. Retrieved from:

4.  Edelman, P. B., et al. (2010). Reducing poverty and economic distress after ARRA: Next steps for short-term recovery and long-term economic security (Perspectives on Low-Income Working Families Brief No. 15). Urban Institute. Retrieved from:

5.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families. (2013). Child Support and Fatherhood Initiative in the Administration's FY 2014 Budget. Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Family Income and Poverty