Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health      

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The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health | May 21, 2015

What Economic Recovery? Child Poverty Persists in California

Although some aspects of California's economy recovered from the Great Recession, the percentage of the state's children living in poverty continued to rise after 2009, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2013, 24 percent of California's children were living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) of $23,624 for a family of four.

The numbers were even higher for some groups. Forty percent of children living in single-parent households had family incomes that fell below the FPL in 2013, compared to 14% who lived with two parents. When divided by race/ethnicity, 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 children.

The FPL does not reflect the true story for California. It is based on the cost of food a family needs to meet basic nutritional requirements, but does not factor in other necessary expenses such as housing and child care. This is problematic for understanding poverty in California, as the state is large and diverse, and is home to some of the most expensive housing markets in the nation.

An alternate measure, the California Self-Sufficiency Standard (SSS), takes into account these necessary expenses (and the regional variation among them) to produce an income standard for each county that would allow a family of a certain composition to make ends meet without public or private assistance. On average, these Standards are more than double the FPL. For example, the SSS for two adults, one pre-schooler and one school-aged child is $63,979, compared to the $23,624 FPL. In 2012, more than half of California's families had incomes that fell below the Self-Sufficiency Standard for their county.

Related Data:

The following indicators use the Federal Poverty Level to define poverty: The following indicators use the Self-Sufficiency Standard to define poverty:

Helpful Links

National Center for Children in Poverty

Child Poverty in California, 8/2013, Public Policy Institute of California, Bohn, S., & Levin, M.

Children Comprise a Disproportionate Share of Californians Living in Deep Poverty, 5/2015, California Budget & Policy Center, Anderson, A.

Falling Behind: The Impact of the Great Recession and the Budget Crisis on California's Women and Their Families (PDF), 2/2012, California Budget & Policy Center

The Ethical and Policy Implications of Research on Income Inequality and Child Well-Being, 3/2015, Pediatrics, Pickett, K. E., & Wilkinson, R. G.

Who Are America's Poor Children? Examining Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity, 7/2011, National Center for Children in Poverty, Seith, D., & Kalof, C.

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Children in Poverty (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
Years: 2007-2013

Children in Poverty Mascots is a program of the Lucile Packard Foundation of Children's Health, which uses data to promote the health and well being of children.
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