California, typically one of the most prosperous and progressive states, is also one of the poorest.
That’s according to new data from the US Census Bureau that offers insight into the economic status of people in California and the nation. The annual release of survey data measures income, poverty and insurance status.
For California, that means another reminder that the state’s poverty rate of 18.2 percent is exceeded only by Washington DC, which has a poverty rate of 18.4 percent when you account for the cost of living. It accounts for about 1 in every six residents.
The state’s poverty rate in 2018 was about 5 percentage points higher than the national average of 13.2 percent, using the “supplemental poverty measure” that accounts for the cost of living in each state, namely food, clothing, housing and utilities. Only states in the Deep South like Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida came close with poverty rates floating around 16 percent.
In recent years the federal government has released two measures of poverty. The “official measure” is used to determine eligibility for government programs. Researchers, particularly in California, say the supplemental poverty measure best captures the state’s high cost of living.
The state’s share of poor residents has steadily fallen from 20.6 percent in 2015. Policy experts say the data reflect California’s efforts and future challenges.
“The data point to two key challenges for the state. One is that a key driver of our high poverty rate is the relatively high cost of living in a lot of parts of California,” said Sara Kimberlin, a senior policy analyst with the California Budget and Policy Center.
“At the same time, earnings except for those at the highest end of the wage spectrum have seen wages that have not really grown in recent years.”
Overall, the report was a mix of grim and expected new figures. Still, the numbers are a striking contrast to the state’s efforts to combat poverty, raise wages and provide insurance for all its residents.
Nationwide, the median household income rose by about 1 percent to $63,179.