Too many families and individuals in all regions of California struggle to afford the costs of housing, child care, health care, food, and other basic necessities – with serious consequences for health and well-being that can also affect the broader community and economy. Many families that include immigrants face particular challenges to maintaining economic security, even in a strong economy, due to jobs with low wages, unstable work, and the “chilling effect” of recent anti-immigrant federal actions. An economic downturn would likely hit these families and their communities especially hard.
Our state has a diverse and dynamic economy. Yet, a large share of Californians live in poverty, wages for the typical worker have been stagnant over the past generation, and there is a widening gap between the wealthiest Californians and households with low incomes. Through our analyses of employment, incomes, and overall economic security, the Budget Center seeks to shed light on state and regional trends while highlighting potential policy approaches for helping Californians with low and middle incomes be able to work, live and provide for their families in our communities.
California’s paid family leave program helps workers balance career and caregiving commitments by providing up to six weeks of paid time off to attend to a sick family member or bond with a newborn or adopted child. But many workers are unable to use the paid family leave program that they contribute to because the payments they receive are too low to cover their bills.
It has been over a decade since the Great Recession devastated our state’s economy, caused massive state budget shortfalls, and undercut the short- and long-term economic and social prospects for millions of Californians. As revenues fell, state policymakers balanced the budget, in part, by making drastic cuts to social safety net programs such as Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP), which helps to support more than 1 million seniors and people with disabilities with low incomes.
California allows parents less time receiving welfare-to-work cash support than 37 states and D.C. In most states, parents’ lifetime time limit is 60 months, the maximum allowed for federally-funded TANF support. But California restricts parents in CalWORKs, the state’s TANF program, to only 48 months – a full year less.
Housing costs vary substantially throughout California, with the highest costs in coastal urban areas and the lowest costs in inland rural areas. But incomes also vary regionally, and areas with relatively lower housing costs also tend to have lower typical incomes. The result is that housing affordability is clearly a problem throughout the state when housing costs are compared to incomes.