California’s 19% poverty rate, though improved, ties state for first in U.S.

Nearly one in five Californians still lives in poverty despite the state’s vigorous recovery from the Great Recession and its low unemployment rate.

The latest numbers, a reflection of the state’s high housing costs and low wages, show 19 percent are poor, some 7.5 million people. The calculation, released Wednesday by the U.S. Census, represents a 1.4 percent improvement over last year.

California is statistically tied for first with Louisiana and Florida as having the highest poverty rate among the 50 states. Nationally, 14.1 percent of Americans are poor.

The agency’s Supplemental Poverty Measure is considered to be the most accurate yardstick because it takes into account the local cost of living and benefits from government safety net programs.

In the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro area, renters with an income of $34,308 and homeowners with a mortgage earning $34,424 were deemed below the poverty line.

In the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metro area, the equivalent numbers were $29,038 and $29,128, respectively.

“High housing costs are a key driver of why so many are struggling,” said Sara Kimberlin, a senior policy analyst at the California Budget & Policy Center, a Sacramento think tank, pointing to a “mismatch between higher housing costs and wages not keeping pace.”

Median household rents in California rose by 13.2 percent from 2006 to 2016, while median annual earnings for full-time workers grew by only 4.1 percent over the same period, according to inflation-adjusted numbers in a report by the budget center.

“Wages for workers in the middle and bottom range have been relatively flat,” Kimberlin added. “We’ve mainly seen increases for those at the higher end.”

California’s jobless rate stood at 4.2 percent in July.

Although attention often focuses on high rents in coastal areas, the report noted that in areas where housing is cheaper, wages also are lower. Statewide, more than a third of …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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