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- Definition: Estimated percentage of children ages 0-17 in living situations with incomes below 50% of their federal poverty threshold (e.g., in 2016, 8.1% of California children lived in deep poverty).
- Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (Oct. 2017).
- Footnote: The federal poverty threshold was $24,339 for a family of two adults and two children in 2016. Poverty status is not determined for some children; for details, see How the Census Bureau Measures Poverty. Data are displayed for geographies with at least 65,000 residents based on 2016 population estimates. These estimates are based on a survey of the population and are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error. The notation S refers to estimates that have been suppressed because the margin of error was greater than 5 percentage points. N/A means that data are not available. Some regions listed are Census Designated Places (CDPs), such as East Los Angeles; CDPs are communities within the unincorporated part of a county.
- Measures of Family Income and Poverty on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, family income and poverty are measured against a variety of income, resource, and self-sufficiency criteria:The U.S. Census Bureau's official poverty measure compares pre-tax cash income against a threshold of three times the cost of a minimally adequate diet in 1963, adjusted for inflation. Federal poverty thresholds aim to define and measure poverty over time, rather than describe the amount of income families need to live. The following indicators are based on the official poverty measure and come from the American Community Survey (ACS):*
- Children living in poverty (i.e., with incomes below their poverty threshold), overall and by race ethnicity
- Children living in deep poverty (i.e., with incomes below 50% of their poverty threshold)
- Children living in areas of concentrated poverty (i.e., where at least 30% of residents live in poverty)
- Income level for children as a percentage of their poverty threshold, overall and by family type
- Children living in low-income working families (i.e., with incomes below 200% of their poverty threshold and with at least one working parent)
Federal poverty guidelines are simplified federal poverty thresholds produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and used for administrative purposes such as determining eligibility for federal programs and benefits. Indicators of family income between 0-100% and 0-200% of federal poverty guidelines are provided for mothers with a recent birth. These estimates come from the Maternal and Infant Health Assessment and are available for California and its counties with the greatest number of births; in addition, state-level breakdowns by race/ethnicity and by type of prenatal health insurance coverage are provided.
The Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) is an extension of the official poverty measure. SPM thresholds are adjusted to account for expenditures on clothing, utilities, and shelter, along with state-level differences in housing costs. To calculate family resources, the SPM adds non-cash government benefits and tax credits to cash income, and subtracts out-of-pocket work, medical, and child care expenses. National and state-level estimates of children living below their SPM poverty threshold come from the Current Population Survey and are available for children overall and by race/ethnicity.
The California Poverty Measure (CPM), a joint project of the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford University Center on Poverty and Inequality, incorporates California-specific threshold and resource adjustments, and allows for county-level and demographic subgroup estimates of child poverty. The following CPM indicators related to child poverty are available:
- Poverty thresholds for families with children by family composition, for renters and owners with mortgages
- Estimates of children living in poverty and deep poverty, overall and by age, race/ethnicity, family type, family citizenship status, family education level, and family employment status
- Estimates of the extent to which social safety net programs reduce child poverty and deep poverty, by program type
A project of the Center for Women's Welfare at the University of Washington, the California Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard measures the amount of income a family of a certain composition in a specific county needs to adequately meet its basic needs without public or private assistance. Kidsdata.org provides self-sufficiency standards for the six most common family types at the state and county level, along with estimates of the percentage of families with children living above and below their standard.
In addition to these measures kidsdata.org also offers:
- Median family income (the income level at which half of families earn more and half earn less), by family type, from ACS*
- The number and rate of children participating in CalWORKs (California's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program), from the California Department of Social Services
*Depending on the indicator, ACS data are available as single-year estimates for regions of at least 65,000 residents, or as five-year estimates for counties, regions of at least 10,000 residents, or legislative districts.
- Family Income and Poverty
- Children in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Children Living in Areas of Concentrated Poverty
- Children in Deep Poverty (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Median Family Income, by Family Type (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Income Level for Children Relative to Poverty (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Income Level for Children Relative to Poverty, by Family Type (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Children Living in Low-Income Working Families (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Mothers with a Recent Birth Living in Families in Poverty
- Mothers with a Recent Birth Living in Low-Income Families
- Children in Poverty - Supplemental Poverty Measure (California & U.S. Only)
- Poverty Thresholds - California Poverty Measure, by Family Composition and Housing Tenure
- Children in Poverty - California Poverty Measure
- Children in Deep Poverty - California Poverty Measure
- Poverty-Reducing Effects of the Social Safety Net - California Poverty Measure, by Program Type and Poverty Level (California Only)
- Self-Sufficiency Standard
- Children Participating in CalWORKs
- Characteristics of Children with Special Needs
- Early Care and Education
- Food Security
- Childhood Adversity and Resilience
- Children with Two or More Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported)
- Prevalence of Childhood Hardships (Maternal Retrospective)
- by Family Income (CA Only)
- by Maternal Age (CA Only)
- by Prenatal Insurance Coverage (CA Only)
- by Race/Ethnicity (CA Only)
- Basic Needs Not Met
- Basic Needs Not Met, by Family Income (CA Only)
- Basic Needs Not Met, by Maternal Age (CA Only)
- Basic Needs Not Met, by Prenatal Insurance Coverage (CA Only)
- Basic Needs Not Met, by Race/Ethnicity (CA Only)
- Family Hunger
- Family Hunger, by Family Income (CA Only)
- Family Hunger, by Maternal Age (CA Only)
- Family Hunger, by Prenatal Insurance Coverage (CA Only)
- Family Hunger, by Race/Ethnicity (CA Only)
- Moved Due to Financial Problems
- Moved Due to Financial Problems, by Family Income (CA Only)
- Moved Due to Financial Problems, by Maternal Age (CA Only)
- Moved Due to Financial Problems, by Prenatal Insurance Coverage (CA Only)
- Moved Due to Financial Problems, by Race/Ethnicity (CA Only)
- Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (Adult Retrospective)
- Housing Affordability
- Fair Market Rent, by Unit Size
- Households with a High Housing Cost Burden, by City, School District and County (65,000 Residents or More)
- Children Living in Crowded Households, by County (65,000 Residents or More)
- Disconnected Youth
- Health Care
- Medicaid (Medi-Cal) or CHIP Coverage, by City, School District and County (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Medicaid (Medi-Cal) and CHIP Yearly Enrollment (California & U.S. Only)
- Medi-Cal Point-in-Time Enrollment
- Health Status
- School Climate
- Why This Topic Is Important
Income and well being are intricately linked. Poverty can alter children's developmental trajectories in cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical health (1). The effects of poverty on child health and well being can begin during pregnancy, as low-income women are more likely to experience risk factors such as malnutrition and stress, and are less likely to receive prenatal care (2). Children who face economic hardship when they are young, or who experience deep and prolonged poverty, are at greatest risk for poor outcomes (1). The effects of poverty and the stress associated with it can be lasting, contributing to increased risks of dropping out of school, poor adult health, and poor employment outcomes, among other adverse consequences (1, 3, 4). The impacts extend beyond individuals, too. For example, it is estimated that one percentage point increase in child poverty could cost the U.S. economy an extra $28 billion annually in the future, due in part to lower future earnings among those who grow up in poverty (5).
The link between income and wellness is evident even for those living above the poverty threshold. A health gradient exists along the economic spectrum such that health status improves as income level increases; e.g., the health of those in the middle-income range tends to be inferior to those in higher-income groups (3).Rates of poverty tend to be highest among children under age 5, those in single-parent families, and African American, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native children (4, 5, 6).
For more information on Family Income and Poverty, see kidsdata.org’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), 43-48. Retrieved from: http://www.centrelearoback.org/inrich/assets/documents/INRICH-PUBCH-EvansKim_ChildhoodPoverty.pdf
2. Hamad, R., & Rehkopf, D. H. (2015). Poverty, pregnancy, and birth outcomes: A study of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 29(5), 444-452. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4536129
3. Aron, L., et al. (2015). Can income-related policies improve population health? Urban Institute & Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health. Retrieved from: http://www.urban.org/research/publication/can-income-related-policies-improve-population-health
4. Child Trends Databank. (2016). Children in poverty. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=children-in-poverty
5. Nichols, A. (2013). Explaining changes in child poverty over the past four decades. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.urban.org/publications/412897.html
6. Bohn, S., & Danielson, C. (2017). Geography of child poverty in California. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: http://www.ppic.org/publication/geography-of-child-poverty-in-california
- How Children Are Faring
In 2016, an estimated 20% of California children lived below the federal poverty threshold ($24,339 annually for a family of two adults and two children), up from 17% in 2007. Across counties with data in 2012-2016, official child poverty rates ranged from 10% in some Bay Area counties to 39% in parts of the Central Valley. In Fresno County, almost one in five children (19%) lived in deep poverty—i.e., on annual income lower than half the federal poverty threshold ($12,170 for two adults and two children in 2016).
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) accounts for expenses (e.g., state-level differences in housing costs) and resources (e.g., government safety net program benefits) not captured in the official poverty measure. According to SPM estimates, 24% of California children lived in poverty in 2013-2015, compared with 16% nationwide. Among California racial/ethnic groups with data, SPM estimates ranged from fewer than one in eight white children living in poverty (12%) to one in three Hispanic/Latino children (33%).
The California Poverty Measure (CPM) builds on the SPM by adjusting for California-specific safety net policies and for regional variation in the cost of living within the state. CPM data from 2013-2015 show that 23% of children statewide lived in poverty and 5% lived in deep poverty. In the absence of social safety net programs, it is estimated that the child poverty rate would have been 14 percentage points higher and the deep poverty rate 13 percentage points higher during this period. CPM child poverty rates vary widely across counties, from 12% in Placer County to 29% in Santa Barbara County, among regions with data in 2013-2015. Overall, children whose parents are single, non-U.S. citizens, or who did not finish high school tend to experience higher rates of CPM poverty and deep poverty than children in families with married parents, U.S. citizens, and higher levels of educational attainment.Rates of poverty among California women with a recent birth—and, by extension, their children—are especially high. Statewide, an estimated 41% of mothers with a birth in 2013-2014 lived in families with income below the federal poverty guideline ($23,850 for a family of four in 2014); for African American/black and Hispanic/Latina mothers, the poverty rate was 60%, compared with 20% or less for Asian/Pacific Islander and white mothers.
The CalWORKs program, which provides cash aid and services to needy families, served nearly 880,000 California children—a rate of 96 per 1,000—in 2017. Among counties with data, participation in CalWORKs ranged from 15 per 1,000 children in San Mateo County to 231 per 1,000 in Del Norte County.
- Policy Implications
Family poverty has multiple causes and dimensions, many of which public policy can address. Maintaining a public safety net for pregnant women and children whose parents do not have the resources to provide adequate food, clothing, health care, and shelter can mitigate poverty (1, 2). Other strategies, such as tax credits and parental work support, also can help lift families out of poverty. Reducing child poverty requires a long-term commitment from leaders at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as a broad policy strategy targeting diverse root causes. While California has made strides in recent years, including a new state Earned Income Tax Credit and minimum wage increases, continued efforts are needed to ensure that all children and families have the opportunity to thrive (1). This is especially important given the current national policy context and potential cuts to federal safety net programs.
Policy and program options that could influence family income and poverty include:
For more policy ideas and information on this topic see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or visit the Public Policy Institute of California, the California Budget and Policy Center, or the Center for Law and Social Policy. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Unemployment, Housing Affordability, and Homelessness.
- Maintaining and strengthening CalWORKs (the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program, the state's version of the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, or TANF), which provides cash assistance and employment support to families, ensuring that benefits support an adequate living standard and families receive the assistance necessary to transition from welfare to work (1, 3, 4)
- Ensuring that eligible families enroll in safety net programs—such as CalFresh (California’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, also known as food stamps), free or reduced-price school meals, and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)—through outreach and elimination of administrative barriers; also, ensuring that safety net programs have the capacity to expand during economic downturns, when unemployment and family needs increase (1, 4, 5)
- Maintaining and strengthening tax credits aimed at reducing poverty among families, e.g., the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, and raising awareness about the recently implemented California Earned Income Tax Credit (1, 6, 7)
- Extending refundable state tax credits to all families with children, irrespective of immigration status, and including those with no earned income (7)
- Increasing access to high-quality, affordable child care in a variety of settings, especially for low-income children, by capitalizing on the expansion of federal and state subsidies for early childhood programs and ensuring that eligible children receive subsidies (1, 8)
- Strengthening and increasing participation in California’s Paid Family Leave program by raising the rate of earnings replacement and providing job protection for those who take time away from work to care for or bond with a new child (9)
- Promoting state and local policies to increase the supply of affordable housing, such as expanding housing bonds, supporting inclusionary zoning requirements, and creating other funding mechanisms (10)
- Adjusting state tax credits to account for regional variation in the cost of living, and expanding eligibility for safety net programs in particularly high-cost areas (7, 11)
- Ensuring comprehensive and consistent benefits across public and private health insurance carriers, so all families can access high-quality, affordable care; this may include increasing Medi-Cal provider rates, reducing the administrative burden on providers, and developing a tool to regularly monitor children's access to quality care in Medi-Cal (8)
- Continuing to strengthen child support enforcement programs that work effectively with non-custodial parents and ensure that support reaches the families that need it (12)
Sources for this narrative:
1. Danielson, C. (2018). California's future: Social safety net. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: http://www.ppic.org/publication/californias-future-social-safety-net
2. Page, M. (2017). Safety net programs have long-term benefits for children in poor households. UC Davis Center for Poverty Research. Retrieved from: https://poverty.ucdavis.edu/policy-brief/safety-net-programs-have-long-term-benefits-children-poor-households
3. Davis, L. M., et al. (2016). Evaluation of the SB 1041 reforms to California's CalWORKs welfare-to-work program: Findings regarding the initial policy implementation and outcomes. RAND Corporation. Retrieved from: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1348.html
4. Schumacher, K. (2015). Even CalWORKs and CalFresh food assistance combined fails to lift families out of poverty. California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from: http://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/even-calworks-and-calfresh-food-assistance-combined-fails-to-lift-families-out-of-poverty
5. California Department of Public Health, Center for Family Health. (2016). Making connections: Understanding women’s reasons for not enrolling in WIC during pregnancy, California 2010-2012. Retrieved from: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CFH/DMCAH/MIHA/CDPH Document Library/MIHA-MakingConnections-2010-2012.pdf
6. Anderson, A. (2017). California should do more to raise awareness of the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from: http://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/california-raise-awareness-california-earned-income-tax-credit-caleitc
7. Bohn, S, & Danielson, C. (2017). Reducing child poverty in California: A look at housing costs, wages, and the safety net. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: http://www.ppic.org/publication/reducing-child-poverty-in-california-a-look-at-housing-costs-wages-and-the-safety-net
8. Children Now. (2018). 2018 California children's report card: A review of kids' well-being and roadmap for the future. Retrieved from: https://www.childrennow.org/reports-research/2018cachildrensreportcard
9. Stanczyk, A. (2016). Paid family leave may reduce poverty following a birth: Evidence from California. Employment Instability, Family Well-being, and Social Policy Network Measurement Group. Retrieved from: https://ssascholars.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/einet/files/stanczyk_einetbrief.pdf
10. Johnson, H., & Cuellar Mejia, M. (2017). California's future: Housing. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: http://www.ppic.org/publication/californias-future-housing
11. Bohn, S, & Danielson, C. (2017). Geography of child poverty in California. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: http://www.ppic.org/publication/geography-of-child-poverty-in-california
12. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. (2017). Office of Child Support Enforcement Annual Report to Congress FY 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/css/resource/fy-2015-annual-report-to-congress
- Websites with Related Information
- California Budget and Policy Center
- Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP): Income and Work Supports
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
- Equality of Opportunity Project
- First Focus: Poverty and Family Economics
- Institute for Women's Policy Research
- MDRC: Building Knowledge to Improve Social Policy
- National Center for Children in Poverty
- Pew Charitable Trusts: Financial Security and Mobility
- PolicyforResults.org, Center for the Study of Social Policy
- Public Policy Institute of California
- Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity
- U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty
- Urban Institute
- Key Reports and Research
- 2018 California Children's Report Card, Children Now
- Basic Facts About Low-Income Children: Children Under 18 Years, 2016, National Center for Children in Poverty, Koball, H., & Jiang, Y.
- California's Future: Social Safety Net, 2018, Public Policy Institute of California, Danielson, C.
- CalWORKs and Poverty in California: An Overview, 2015, California Budget and Policy Center, Hoene, C.
- Can Income-Related Policies Improve Population Health?, 2015, Urban Institute & Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health, Aron, L., et al.
- Children’s Health Programs in California: Promoting a Lifetime of Health and Well-Being, 2015, California Budget and Policy Center, Schumacher, K.
- Escaping Poverty: Predictors of Persistently Poor Children’s Economic Success, 2017, U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, Ratcliffe, C., & Kalish, E.
- Five Facts Everyone Should Know About Deep Poverty, 2015, California Budget & Policy Center, Anderson, A.
- Five Ways Poverty Harms Children, 2014, Child Trends, Murphey, D., & Redd, Z.
- Geography of Child Poverty in California, 2017, Public Policy Institute of California, Bohn, S., & Danielson, C.
- Making Ends Meet: How Much Does It Cost to Support a Family in California?, 2017, California Budget and Policy Center , Kimberlin, S., & Rose, A.
- Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States, 2015, Annie E. Casey Foundation
- Neighborhood Adversity, Child Health, and the Role for Community Development, 2015, Pediatrics, Jutte, D. P., et al.
- Policies to Promote Child Health, 2015, The Future of Children
- Portrait of Promise: The California Statewide Plan to Promote Health and Mental Health Equity, 2015, California Dept. of Public Health, Office of Health Equity
- Poverty and Child Health in the United States, 2016, Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community Pediatrics
- Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective, 2018, Equality of Opportunity Project, Chetty, R., et al.
- Reducing Child Poverty in California: A Look at Housing Costs, Wages, and the Safety Net, 2017, Public Policy Institute of California, Bohn, S., & Danielson, C.
- The Ethical and Policy Implications of Research on Income Inequality and Child Well-Being, 2015, Pediatrics, Pickett, K. E., & Wilkinson, R. G.
- The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2016, U.S. Census Bureau, Fox, L.
- County/Regional Reports
- 2014 Solano Children's Report Card, Children's Network of Solano County
- 2016-17 California County Scorecard of Children's Well-Being, Children Now
- 2017 Kern County Report Card, Kern County Network for Children
- 2017 Wellbeing Index Findings Summary, City of Santa Monica & RAND Corporation
- A Portrait of Sonoma County: Sonoma County Human Development Report 2014, Measure of America, Burd-Sharps, S., & Lewis, K.
- Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan, Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health
- Fresno Community Scorecard
- Inequality and Economic Security in Silicon Valley, 2016, California Budget and Policy Center, Reidenbach, L., & Hoene, C.
- Live Well San Diego Report Card on Children, Families, and Community, 2017, The Children's Initiative & Live Well San Diego
- Orange County Community Indicators Report, Orange County Community Indicators Project
- Santa Clara County Children's Agenda: 2018 Data Book, Planned Parenthood & Kids in Common
- Santa Clara County Public Health Department: Health Data and Statistics
- Santa Monica Youth Wellbeing Report Card, Santa Monica Cradle to Career
- The 23rd Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County, 2017, Orange County Children's Partnership
- More Data Sources For Family Income and Poverty
- 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book, Annie E. Casey Foundation
- California Health and Human Services Open Data Portal, California Health and Human Services Agency
- California Health Interview Survey, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
- Child Trends Databank: Children in Poverty
- Community Commons: Community Health Needs Assessment
- Geography of Child Poverty in California: Interactive Map, Public Policy Institute of California
- Maternal and Infant Health Assessment (MIHA), California Dept. of Public Health & University of California, San Francisco
- Self-Sufficiency Standard Tool for California, Insight Center for Community Economic Development
- U.S. Census Bureau: Poverty
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