Chris Hoene on New Census Figures on Poverty in California: “Economic Gains Continue to Leave Many Behind”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SACRAMENTO — The California Budget & Policy Center, a nonpartisan public policy research group, released the following statement from Executive Director Chris Hoene in response to new state-level poverty data released by the US Census Bureau this morning. According to the latest American Community Survey, 6.3 million Californians, including 2.0 million children, lived below the federal poverty line in 2014. California’s official poverty rate in 2014 was 16.4 percent, a statistically significant decline from 16.8 percent in 2013 but still well above the pre-recession low of 12.4 percent in 2007. Similarly, California’s child poverty rate for 2014 (22.7 percent) represented a statistically significant decline from the 2013 level (23.5 percent), but was far above the pre-recession low of 17.3 percent.

“California saw poverty and child poverty both go down last year, and this is good news. Still, these latest Census figures are a reminder that California’s recent economic gains continue to leave many individuals and families behind.

“We know that the right policy choices can create a strong economy that works for all Californians and can help families who are struggling to afford the basics. The California Earned Income Tax Credit that lawmakers created this past summer is an important way of boosting the incomes of working families with low earnings. Ensuring that this new state credit benefits as many families as possible will be critical.

“There are other ways that state policies could help families advance. Policymakers could tie California’s minimum wage to inflation, so that it keeps up with the cost of living. They could also increase support for subsidized child care that lets families know their children are in good hands while parents are at work. Policymakers also could take steps to increase the number of families receiving CalFresh food assistance and strengthen California’s welfare-to-work program to help more families overcome obstacles to employment.

“At the same time, state policymakers should work to continue reducing the number of Californians who lack health insurance, in particular by boosting coverage options for undocumented immigrants. This would build on the state’s tremendous progress to date in expanding coverage through the full implementation of federal health care reform.

“Even with the year-to-year decline in poverty, the latest Census figures point to widespread economic hardship in our state. We must take a multifaceted, sustained approach to bringing prosperity within reach of far more Californians.”

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The California Budget & Policy Center engages in independent fiscal and policy analysis and public education with the goal of improving public policies affecting the economic and social well-being of low- and middle-income Californians. Support for the the Budget Center comes from foundation grants, subscriptions, and individual contributions.