Child Poverty in California
- Child poverty rates in California increased rapidly during the Great Recession.
After reaching a low of about 16% in 2001, the child poverty rate in California has been trending upward. The Great Recession accelerated the increase: by 2010, nearly 1 in 4 children was living in poverty in California (23.2%). Child poverty in California is much higher than the poverty rate among adults (14%) and the elderly (10%).
- Child poverty is still lower than its peak during the recession of the early 1990s.
Despite the severity of the Great Recession, a smaller percentage of children in California are in poverty than during the recession of the early 1990s—in 1994 the child poverty rate reached a high of 28%. Although the Great Recession is officially over, it is not yet clear whether the child poverty rate has peaked. Regardless, more children are in poverty now than three to four decades ago.
- The trend in California is similar to that in the rest of the country.
Since 2001, the rate of child poverty has been holding steady or climbing in both California and the rest of the U.S. During the Great Recession, poverty among children increased across the country, but by 2010 the child poverty rate in the rest of the nation was 21.7%, slightly lower than California’s rate.
- Latino and African American children have higher poverty rates than other groups.
The child poverty rates for Latinos (30%) and African Americans (31%) are much higher than the rates among Asian children (12.1%) and whites (10%) in California. However, in the rest of the country poverty rates among Latino and African American children are even higher (39% and 33%, respectively). Child poverty rates are significantly higher in families headed by immigrants than in families headed by American-born adults (27.6% vs. 16.8%). But most poor children in California are U.S.-born (90.6%) and the majority (63.5%) are U.S.-born Latinos.
- Child poverty varies considerably across California.
In five San Francisco Bay Area counties (San Mateo, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and Marin), child poverty rates are in the bottom quarter (below 13%). By contrast, rates in most Central Valley counties (Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Merced, Kern, Madero, and Stanislaus) are in the top 10, all at 29% or higher. More than a quarter (28.5%) of poor children in California live in Los Angeles County.
- Poverty rates are particularly high among single-mother and less-educated families
Poverty rates are higher for children living with single mothers (45%) than for those in married-couple families (14.6%) or with a single father (29.2%). The child poverty rate in single-mother families in the rest of the U.S. is even higher (48.1%). Most poor children (in terms of absolute numbers, not the rate of poverty) are part of married-couple families (48.7%). The child poverty rate in families where neither parent has a high school diploma is high in California (44.7%), but not as high as in the rest of the country (52.3%).
- Most poor children are in working families.
A majority of poor children live in families where one or both parents are working: 37.2% of poor children have a parent working full-time and an additional 23.8% have a parent working part-time. That is, 61% of poor children are in families with a working adult. This is down substantially since 2006, before the recession, when 77% of poor children were in working families.
Sources: American Community Survey (2010) for demographic and geographic breakdown; Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (1970–2011) for trends. Both from the U.S. Census Bureau.