More than 6 in 10 households in California earning less than $35,000 had difficulty paying for basic expenses from March to mid-July of 2023.
All Californians should be able to put food on the table, keep themselves and their families safely housed, and thrive in their communities. However, high costs of living, inflation, and the end of pandemic-era supports, such as CalFresh emergency food benefits and the expanded federal Child Tax Credit, put a strain on the ability of Californians to make ends meet.
Not everyone bears these challenges equally. Californians with the lowest incomes are hit the hardest when basic costs go up. More than 6 in 10 households in California earning less than $35,000 had difficulty paying for basic expenses such as food, housing, and medical costs from March to mid-July of this year.
Black, Latinx, and other Californians of color were more likely to struggle paying for basic expenses. Past racist policies and ongoing discrimination have made Californians of color more likely to have low incomes. For example, more than half (54%) of Black Californians reported facing difficulty paying for essential needs like food and housing. Additionally, LGBTQ+ individuals in the state disproportionately struggle to afford basic expenses.
Many California households with children are also struggling to pay for basic expenses. This is even more pronounced in households with low incomes. Overall, almost half of all California households with children (46%) struggled to pay for basic expenses between March and mid-July, compared to 35% of households without children. Among households with incomes under $35,000, over half (59%) of those without kids struggled paying for basic necessities. And while that share is very high, it’s even higher for households with low incomes and children — 71%, or 12 percentage points higher.
Millions of Californians are struggling to make ends meet every day. This is especially true for those with low incomes, Black, Latinx, and other Californians of color, and households with children. Pandemic-era supports that helped families and individuals pay for basic needs in recent years have expired. However, inflation and the high cost of living relative to workers’ earnings continue to strain families’ budgets. This points to the urgent need for policymakers to further invest in resources to ensure that all Californians can thrive. This includes affordable housing, affordable health care, and a strong safety net. In a state as wealthy as California, policymakers have the tools to build communities where all can share in our state’s prosperity.