U.S. Census ranks the state as the poorest in the nation.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Anew poverty measurement by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates nearly a quarter of Californians are poor, giving the state the highest poverty rate in the nation.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure, first released last year and updated in November, puts the state’s poverty rate at 23.5 percent – significantly worse than the official rate of 16.3 percent, based on the original poverty measure.
The new measure takes into account factors like housing and medical expenses that could contribute to poverty but are disregarded by the official measure still used by the federal government.
Though the supplemental poverty measure has not yet been released for Monterey County, official numbers from 2011 show the county has a slightly higher poverty rate – by about 1 percentage point – than the state.
Mary Adams, president of United Way Monterey County, says poverty in the area could be attributed to the county’s low-wage agricultural and tourism jobs. Compounding the problem are the high housing costs on the Central California Coast.
Those factors make for “the perfect storm as far as poverty goes,” she says.
The original measure calculated food costs for a family and multiplied that number by three to produce a poverty income threshold.
“Everyone knew the original measure was inaccurate,” says Jim Raines, director of CSU Monterey Bay’s Health, Human Services and Public Policy department. “We’ve known that for more than 50 years.”
Raines says the more accurate supplemental poverty measure could replace the official one, but it will face scrutiny.
“This does significantly increase poverty across the country,” he says. “It would create more people who are eligible for aid, and that would be a political fight.”