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Study: 1 in 3 Californians can't meet basic daily needs

Study conducted by the United Ways of California.
Family of Four
Posted at 1:39 PM, Jul 21, 2021

(KERO) — According to a study by the United Way, California families are struggling to meet the most basic daily needs.

In the study "Struggling to Move Up: The Real Cost Measure in California 2021,' the organization determined that 1 in 3 families struggle financially to meet daily needs such as child care, rent and housing, transportation and healthcare. In addition, the study found that the situation affects Latino and Black households at a much higher rate.

The study goes on to show that "the share of families that struggle financially is 250 percent higher in California than what is factored in the federal government’s measure. It amounts to 3.5 million families who are unable to meet basic needs" in the state.

“This study shows that many more California working families struggle to meet living costs than official estimates, and identifies significant gaps between what it costs for families and their children to live with dignity and what they actually earn,” said Peter Manzo, President & CEO of United Ways of California. “This new perspective should be the yardstick by which we set our priorities, and the study is a wake-up call to local community partners, civic leaders, the business sector, and elected officials that so much more needs to be done to help families not just survive but actually thrive.”

The study shows that the cost of living for a family of four (defined as two adults, one pre-schooler and one school-aged child) in Los Angeles County is over $95,000 and over $77,000 for a similar family in Sacramento County. In comparison, the federal government says families would only need to make $26,500 to be categorized as not living in poverty.

The study is based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Community Survey data from 2014 through 2019.

Other Key Findings of the Study:

  • Struggling Households Work: Of the estimated 3.5 million households in California that fall below the Real Cost Measure, 97% have at least one working adult.
  • Housing Burden: Nearly 4 in 10 households in California (38%) pay more than 30% of their income on housing, which is considered a dangerous threshold by affordable housing advocates.
  • Child Care Costs Can Be Even More Expensive Than Housing for Many Families: In Fresno County, the annual cost of child care for a family with two adults, one preschooler and one school-aged child can reach $14,429 versus $19,740 in Orange County.
  • Over Half of Young Children Live in Struggling Households: 53% of households in California with children younger than six-years-old fall below the Real Cost Measure.
  • Households of All Races Struggle, but Is Highest for Latino and Black Families: Over 1.7 million Latino households (or 51% of them) are estimated to not earn enough to get by, compared to over 1.06 million white households (20%); 481,618 Asian American households (28%); 259,516 Black households (41%); and 13,592 Native American/Alaska Native households (39%).
  • Less Education Results in Greater Struggles: Nearly 7 in 10 California households without a high school diploma or equivalent (68%) fall below the Real Cost Measure, compared to those with at least a high school diploma (47%), those with at least some college education (34%), and those with at least a bachelor’s degree (15%).
  • Single Mothers: 7 in 10 households led by single mothers in California (70%) fall below the Real Cost Measure.
  • Foreign-Born Households Have More Trouble Meeting Basic Needs: Thirty-six percent of households in California that are led by a person born outside the U.S. are below the Real Cost Measure, a figure which rises to 59% when the household is led by someone without U.S. citizenship. Meanwhile, only 26% of households led by a person born in the U.S. earn income below the Real Cost Measure.