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Reducing Child Poverty in California

This interactive tool allows you to explore how changes to housing costs, minimum wage, and the social safety net could affect child poverty statewide and in your county. We find lower housing costs and minimum wage increases could lower child poverty substantially—while helping Californians across the income spectrum. And though investments in California’s safety net would need to draw from the state budget, these approaches could also reduce child poverty considerably—while concentrating resources on vulnerable populations. See the PPIC report Reducing Child Poverty in California: A Look at Housing Costs, Wages, and the Safety Net for more information.

We focus on poverty among young children ages 0–5 using the California Poverty Measure, which—unlike the official poverty measure—accounts for variation in the cost of living and the cash value of safety net benefits. The California Poverty Measure is a joint research effort between PPIC and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

Notes: Our analysis uses detailed 2012–15 California Poverty Measure (CPM) data to simulate changes in the policy environment. Our baseline includes major policy changes that have occurred by 2017, such as cost-of-living adjustments in the CalWORKs and Supplemental Security Income programs, the expansion of the state’s EITC as passed in 2017, and the minimum wage in effect as of January 2017. We take a restricted, short-term view of likely policy outcomes; we do not incorporate the behavioral or macroeconomic effects that would result from major policy changes. In particular, we assume no changes in employment as a result of additional benefits or higher wages (exceptions are explored in the technical appendices). In addition, we do not consider how the simulated policy expansions might interact if combined. As such, the effects we estimate are not additive. For some less populous counties, poverty rates cannot be calculated individually; those counties are grouped. Income ranges reflect poverty thresholds for a family of four that rents their dwelling, and the groupings shown divide the income spectrum into the following ranges: 0–49%, 50–99%, 100–149%, and 150%+ of the CPM threshold for the given county or county group (or the average across the state). “Deep poverty” refers to the first range (family resources less than half of the poverty line). Family resources include cash income (from earnings, investments, retirement, etc.), taxes paid or credited, and benefits from safety net programs. Necessary work expenses and out-of-pocket medical expenses are subtracted from these family resources. Median and total increases in family resources are marked as “n/a” in the housing scenarios because family resources are unchanged. Rounding leads to small anomalies in some counties. For more information about data and methodology, see the technical appendices.

Related Content


Reducing Child Poverty in California: A Look at Housing Costs, Wages, and the Safety Net
Geography of Child Poverty in California
Just the Facts: Child Poverty in California
Just the Facts: Poverty in California
Just the Facts: The Working Poor in California


California Poverty by County and Legislative District


Economic Mobility Economy Health & Safety Net Population