“ Our leaders …can start by recognizing that childhood poverty is just as important to our state’s economic growth as creating new jobs,…”
Ann O’Leary challenges California to face up to the problem of childhood poverty in a Sacramento Bee opinion piece, We can’t abandon the next generation. She marshals sobering statistics about the Great Recession’s legacy of impoverishment and suggests some approaches to deal with it.
The Great Recession led to record setting levels and rates of poverty in California;
- According to the Census Bureau’s official estimates, “more Californians are living in poverty – 6.3 million – more than at any point since the U.S. census started tracking state poverty”
- If that weren’t bad enough, the Census Bureau’s new Supplementary Poverty Measure (see description and county poverty rates below) “puts the number of Californians in poverty at 8.7 million” which means that California has “the highest poverty rate in the country.”
- Almost half of all California children live in or very nearly in poverty.
- “more than twice as many California children live in poverty as seniors”, 21 percent of children versus 8.5 percent of seniors.
Not surprisingly, childhood poverty is greatest in areas of high unemployment, low rates of medical insurance coverage, high percentages of single-parent households, and low educational attainment rates. According to Prosperity Threatened: Perspectives on Childhood Poverty in California, by The Center for the Next Generation childhood poverty in by the Supplemental measure in 2011 was highest in Lake County at 37.9 percent, followed by Merced County, 36.0 percent, and Fresno County at 35.0 percent.
To address this, O’Leary recommends increasing school funding in high child poverty areas and making it easier for poor families to access healthcare and to the existing range of income security programs.
Note: according to the Governor’s 2013-14 Budget Proposal: “School districts serving those students who have the greatest challenges will receive more generous increases — so that all students in California have the opportunity to succeed.”
Supplementary Poverty Measure
According to the Census Bureau’s Supplementary Poverty Measure, the poverty rate in California is the highest in the nation, 23.5 percent. Only Hawaii and the District of Columbia come close.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure differs from the official measure in that it (1) accounts for government benefits and taxes, work expenses (including childcare), and medical expenses on households’ standards of living and (2) uses a more accurate measure of the poverty line. The official poverty measure’s poverty lines are based on surveys of family expenditures from the 1950s, whereas the supplemental measure’s poverty lines are based on actual expenditures on food, clothing, shelter, and utilities. Also, the Supplemental poverty line takes into geographic differences in housing prices.