Nearly one out of five Californians live in poverty.1
Poverty affects the ability to live a healthy life by limiting access to the basic necessities of housing, food, education, jobs, healthcare, and transportation. Low-income persons frequently live in under-resourced neighborhoods and are often exposed to unfavorable conditions that affect health across the life course. Children in poor families are at greater risk of growing up in environments that are harmful to their development, health, and prospects for a high-quality education. Poverty is associated with societal exclusion and higher prevalence of mental illness. People experiencing poverty are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, acute and chronic stress, and to die prematurely.2
There are many ways to measure poverty. The California Poverty Measure (CPM) tracks the percentage of residents living in poverty, taking into account income, cost of living, and social safety net services.
In 2017-19 (baseline time range), 16.4% of Californians lived in poverty. The most recent rate available is 16.4% (2017-19). The target is to be determined (TBD) for this indicator.
Meeting Basic Needs
Nearly one in five Californians—about 7.4 million people—lacked sufficient financial resources to meet basic needs.3
Housing Cost Burden
Among Californians in poverty, 68.4 percent spend more than 50 percent of net family resources on housing.4
Most poor families in California are working families. Nearly four in five poor Californians lived in families with at least one working adult.3
Without social safety net programs, more Californians would live in poverty, especially in the Inland Empire, Central Valley and Sierra. The largest social safety net programs kept an estimated 7.8% of Californians out of poverty.3
Safety net programs reduce poverty much more in inland areas: if we subtract these resources from family budgets, 13.9% more people in the Central Valley and Sierra would be poor, compared with 4.0% more in the Bay Area.3
Data Snapshot: Trends & Disparities
26.1% of Latinos lived in poverty, compared with 18.9% of African Americans, 17.6% of Asian Americans, and 13.5% of whites.3
Though poverty among Latinos is down from 30.9% in 2011, Latinos remain disproportionately poor (making up 52.8% of poor Californians but 39.2% of all Californians).3
The counties of Los Angeles (24.3%) and Santa Cruz (23.8%) had the highest poverty rates in California. El Dorado County had the lowest rate, at 11.8%. Rates vary even more widely (from 7.8% to 40.7%) across state assembly, state senate, and US congressional districts.3
There are disparities in poverty rates based on educational attainment. The rate for adults age 25–64 with a college degree was 8.4%, compared with 34.5% for those without a high school diploma.3
Poverty rates are highest for children—about 1.9 million—live in poverty in California.5
Percent of Residents Living in Poverty Based on California Poverty Measure, by County and Legislative District
Percent of Residents Living in Poverty Based on California Poverty Measure, by Demographic Category
Indicator Name: Percentage of Residents Living in Poverty
Indicator Description: The California Poverty Measure (CPM), a joint research effort by PPIC and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, draws on administrative and survey data to deliver a more comprehensive measure of poverty.6 It accounts for the cost of living and a range of family needs and resources, including social safety net benefits. The California Poverty Measure incorporates the changes in costs and standards of living since the official poverty measure was devised in the early 1960s—and accounts for geographic differences in the cost of living across the state. It also factors in tax credits and in-kind assistance that can augment family resources and subtracts medical, commuting, and child care expenses.
Data Limitations: https://inequality.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/CPM-2014_technical-appendix.pdf
Indicator Source: Public Policy Institute of California and Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Indicator Calculation Methodology: https://inequality.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/CPM-2014_technical-appendix.pdf
Data Collection Methodology: https://inequality.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/CPM-2014_technical-appendix.pdf
Program URL Link: https://www.ppic.org/map/california-poverty-by-county-and-legislative-district/
Reporting Cycle: Annual
Reporting Lag: 2 years
1. Public Policy Institute of California. (2019). California Poverty by County and Legislative District. Retrieved February 1, 2019, from PPIC.org: https://www.ppic.org/map/california-poverty-by-county-and-legislative-district/
2. Office of Health Equity. (March 2014). Healthy Communities Data and Indicators Project. California Department of Public Health, from: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OHE/CDPH%20Document%20Library/HCI/ADA%20Compliant%20Documents/HCI_PovertyRate_754_Narrative_Examples11-5-13rev3-12-14-ADA.pdf
3. Public Policy Institute of California. (2019). Poverty in California. Retrieved February 1, 2019, from PPIC.org: https://www.ppic.org/publication/poverty-in-california/
4. Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. (October 2017). California’s Poverty Rate Goes Down, but 7.5 Million Remain Poor. Retrieved February 1, 2019, from: https://inequality.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/california_poverty_measure_2015.pdf
5. Public Policy Institute of California. (2019). Child Poverty in California. Retrieved February 1, 2019, from PPIC.org: https://www.ppic.org/publication/child-poverty-in-california/
Stories & Solutions
Social Determinants of Health
What Are Social Determinants of Health? The social determinants of health are the conditions in which we live, learn, work, and play.1 These conditions include a broad range of socioeconomic and environmental factors, such as air and water quality, the quality of the built environment (e.g., housing quality; land [...]
How can we provide access to nutritious food for the 5.4 million Californians who experience food insecurity?
Early Childhood Well-being
How can we promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for healthy development?
Access to Services
How can we improve access to services that support health and enhance quality of life for Californians?
Community Cohesion and Violence Prevention
How can we create safe, connected, communities free of violence?
Access to Quality Care
How can all Californians achieve access to affordable, high-quality healthcare?
How can we build connections between health care systems, public health, and community partners?
Share Your Story
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