SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Stubborn poverty continues to plague the Golden State, which maintains the worst poverty rate in the nation, with 14.3 percent of residents, and almost 20 percent of children, living below the federal poverty line.
However, the new Census numbers on poverty do show that the state is a bit better off than last year. The state’s median annual household income of $67,000 dollars is about $10,000 higher than the national average, but that money doesn’t go very far because the median price we pay for a home is more than twice the national average.
Jessica Bartholow, a legislative advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, says the cost of living here is a huge problem.
“With high rent prices, a low vacancy rent on rental housing, you’re starting to see that really hit our supplemental poverty rate,” she explains. “And we know that the lack of affordable housing is the number one reason why we are in this spot that we’re in now.”
California’s supplemental poverty rate, which takes the cost of living into account, is above the national average. San Francisco has the highest median income in the nation, at more than $97,000, but the state also has a very large gap between rich and poor.
The state legislative session ends tonight at midnight, and lawmakers still are working on a package of housing bills that would create more affordable units and prevent rents from spiking.
Bartholow says a lot also depends on the federal budget and the GOP push to repeal Obamacare and slash Medi-Cal.
“We’re hoping that the federal government takes heed of these good numbers and doesn’t make drastic changes to either the economy impacting low-income workers or the safety net,” she says.
Anti-poverty groups also support bills that reduce fines and fees in the criminal-justice system and one that would prevent debt collectors from using bank levies to wipe out people’s last dollar.