New Data Show Big Jump in Poverty in California

New Census Bureau data released today – and analyzed in a new CBP publication – show that the recession is taking a significant toll on many Californians. One of the most startling findings is that poverty has jumped substantially. The poverty rate for all Californians rose from 12.7 percent in 2007 to 14.6 percent in 2008, leaving 5.3 million Californians living below the federal poverty line ($21,834 for a family of four with two children in 2008). The share of California’s children living in poverty also skyrocketed in 2008, rising above 20 percent for the first time since 1999. The new data also show that the share of Californians under the age of 65 with job-based health coverage slipped to 56.2 percent in 2008, continuing a multiyear downward trend.

Perhaps the most sobering aspect of these glum statistics is that they represent only the tip of the iceberg. The state’s economy deteriorated further in 2009, as we showed in our recent Labor Day report, so the Census Bureau data released today show just the beginning of what could become a substantial decline in living standards for low- and middle-income Californians.

All of this points to the need for more federal assistance, including more aid to prevent further state budget cuts, an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, and the passage of comprehensive health reform.

— Scott Graves

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