(The Center Square) – California has the highest level of functional poverty in the U.S., according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
“California’s political leaders talk of the ‘utopia’ they are building,” State Rep. Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, said. “A new Census Bureau report once again shows that we have the highest poverty rate in the nation.”
Riley and Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Uber City, are scheduled to testify next month in a lawsuit filed against Gov. Gavin Newsom over his executive orders, which they argue are unconstitutional.
The Census Bureau reported that of California’s roughly 40 million residents, an average of 18.2 percent have been impoverished during the three preceding years.
The number comes from a supplemental poverty method (SPM) report used by the Census Bureau to calculate poverty. It includes a wider array of income measures, and also adjusts for cost of living increases.
“Since the publication of the first official U.S. poverty estimates, researchers and policymakers have continued to discuss the best approach to measure income and poverty in the United States,” the Census Bureau states. “Beginning in 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau began publishing the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which extends the official poverty measure by taking account of many of the government programs designed to assist low-income families and individuals that are not included in the official poverty measure.”
California’s rate is three times higher than Iowa’s rate of 6.8 percent, which is the lowest in the nation. It’s also notably higher than its neighboring states’ poverty rates of 13.7 percent in Nevada, 12.8 in Arizona, and 11.1 in Oregon.
But the SPM doesn’t tell the whole story, the Public Policy Institute of California points out in its own calculations.
Using a similar methodology as the Census Bureau, the institute created a California Poverty Measure, which calculated the poverty rate at 17.8 percent and near-poverty rate at 18.5 percent.
Slightly more than 36 percent of California’s residents are at or near the poverty level, more than one third of its population.
“The high cost of housing has emerged as a threat to California’s future,” the Public Policy Institute of California says. “Many Californians see homelessness and housing costs as the state’s most important challenges, according to a 2019 statewide survey."
While the median household income is slightly above the national median of $63,179, one-third of Californians earn less than $15 an hour.
In the third quarter of 2019, only 31 percent of California households could afford to buy a median-priced home, according to the California Association of Realtors.
“California has the second-highest homelessness rate in the nation and ranks near the top in cost-burdened households – second among homeowners and third among renters,” the PPIC states.
SPM rates were higher than official poverty rates in 15 states and the District of Columbia, the bureau reported. Twenty-four states had lower SPM rates; in 11 states the differences were not statistically significant.
Nationwide, Social Security continued to be the most important antipoverty program, the bureau notes, which moved 27.2 million people out of poverty. Additionally, refundable tax credits also moved 8.9 million people out of poverty.