Children Living Above and Below the Poverty Level (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More), by Income Level and Family Type
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Learn More About Family Income and Poverty

Measures of Family Income and Poverty on Kidsdata.org

On kidsdata.org, 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 ($23,283 for a family of two adults and two children in 2012), 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)
  • Children living in low-income working families
  • Individuals receiving CalWORKs benefits, from the California Department of Social Services
  • Children living in "food insecure" households (i.e., estimated percentage of children living in households with limited or uncertain access to adequate food), calculated by Feeding America
  • Children receiving Food Stamp benefits, from the California Health Interview Survey

Unless otherwise noted, data are estimates based on the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Depending on the indicator, breakdowns may include:

  • 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 https://www.census.gov/hhes/povmeas/methodology/supplemental/research.html.

Family Income and Poverty
Demographics
Community Connectedness
Early Care and Education
Family Structure
Free/Reduced Price School Meals
Disconnected Youth
Homelessness
Housing Affordability
Unemployment
Nutrition
Why This Topic Is Important
Family economic status is closely tied to child health and well being. Low family income can affect the ability of the family to provide the environment and experiences a child needs for optimal cognitive and emotional development, and can contribute to behavioral and social problems, and compound poor 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 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).

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 (1, 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 (1). It is estimated that family economic hardship costs the U.S. up to $500 billion annually in health care spending, lost labor productivity, and criminal justice spending (1).

For more information on Family Income and Poverty please see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Center for Children in Poverty. (2009). Ten important questions about child poverty and family economic hardship. Retrieved from: http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_829.html#question7

2.  Redd, Z., et al. (2011). Two generations in poverty: Status and trends among parents and children in the United States, 2000-2010 (Child Trends Research Brief No. 2011-25) . Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?publications=two-generations-in-poverty-status-and-trends-among-parents-and-children-in-the-united-states-2000-2010-2

3.  World Health Organization. (2008). Commission on social determinants of health, final report. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/social_determinants/thecommission/finalreport/en/index.html

How Children Are Faring
In 2012, an estimated 24% of California children lived below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) of $23,283 annually for a family of four. This percentage has increased by 38% 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, 32% of American Indian/Alaska Native children, and 32% of Latino children lived below the FPL in 2012, compared to 12% of white, 13% of Asian American, and 18% of multiracial children. In addition, 40% of California children in single-parent households lived below the FPL in 2012, compared to 15% of children living with two parents.
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 27% of California children lived in poverty in 2012, compared to 18% nationwide.

In 2008-12, 15% of California children lived in areas of concentrated poverty, where 30% or more of the population lives below the FPL. 26% of California children lived in 'low-income working families' (households in which at least one resident parent worked 50 weeks in the prior 12 months but income was below 200% of the FPL) in 2012.

The Self-Sufficiency Standard (SSS), another measure on kidsdata.org, 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 range from $43,354 to $63,979. Statewide in 2012, about half (51%) of families of all household types lived below the the SSS. 

In California, the median family income was $66,215 in 2012, and ranged at the county level from $41,810 to $115,513. Median family income has been declining in recent years.

CalWORKs is a welfare program that provides cash aid and services to eligible needy families in California. In 2013, almost 1.4 million individuals in California (3.6% of the total population) received CalWORKs benefits. According to a Public Policy Institute of California report, more than three-fourths (77%) of CalWORKs recipients are children. 

In 2011, almost 2.5 million California children (more than 27% of the child population) lived in "food insecure" households with uncertain or inadequate access to food and almost 30% of parents in California reported that their child received Food Stamp benefits in 2011-12. 
Policy Implications
Family poverty has many 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, 3)
  • Preserving public health insurance coverage for children, including immigrant children (4)
  • Supporting efforts to educate the public about expanded health insurance opportunities for children through the federal Affordable Care Act (5)
  • Streamlining and automating Medi-Cal eligibility and enrollment processes to ensure that all children have health coverage (5)
  • Boosting CalFresh (Food Stamps) enrollment for eligible families, through outreach and elimination of administrative barriers (1, 6)
  • Maintaining and restoring state and federal funding for subsidized child care and early childhood programs for low-income working families (7)
  • Strengthening child support enforcement programs that work effectively with non-custodial parents and ensure that support reaches the families that need it (8)
  • 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 (7)
For more policy ideas and information on this topic see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or visit the Urban Institute, California Budget Project, Center for Law and Social Policy, or the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Unemployment, Housing Affordability, and Homelessness.

Sources for this narrative:


1.  Pavetti, et al. (2010). Creating a safety net that works when the economy doesn’t: The role of the food stamp and TANF programs. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved from: http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/412068_food_stamps_tanf.pdf


2.  Bedsworth, et al. (2010). California 2025: Planning for a better future. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_610TGR.pdf


3.  California Budget Project. (2010). Searching for balance: The social and economic context of the Governor’s proposed 2010-11 budget. Retrieved from: http://www.cbp.org/pdfs/2010/100202_Searching_for_Balance.pdf


4.  100% Campaign. (2009). The importance of providing health coverage to all children. Retrieved from: http://www.100percentcampaign.org/fs/resource:id/_a_/disposition=attachment/_a_/xkozkudej1hlrk/xy51tm9qkvlrna?_c=zcq00pv753hsfd

5.  Children Now. (2013). The 2013-14 Pro-Kid Policy Agenda. Retrieved from: http://www.childrennow.org/index.php/movement/prokidagenda/

6.  California Budget Project. (2009). Food within reach: Strategies for increasing participation in the food stamp program in California. Retrieved from: http://cbp.org/pdfs/2009/091221_Food_Stamps.pdf


7.  Edelman, et al. (2010). Reducing poverty and economic distress after ARRA: Next steps for short-term recovery and long-term economic security. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.urban.org/publications/412150.html

8.  Wheaton, et al. (2007). The potential impact of increasing child support payments to TANF families. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411595_child_support.pdf
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