Editorial: What’s making California so poor

Editorial: What’s making California so poor

California has no shortage of dramatic evidence of its metropolitan housing shortage, from the Bay Area’s sprawling homeless encampments to the exurban developments being incinerated by worsening wildfires. A Census Bureau report released this week is a dry affair by comparison, but it also speaks to the human suffering rooted in the crisis. The report details the supplemental poverty measure, an attempt to capture a more accurate picture of the nation’s impoverished than the rudimentary official measure by taking into account living costs, government benefits and other factors. By the official measure, based mainly on income and family size, California’s 11.4% poverty rate is close to the national average over the past three years, ranking it 21st among the states. But when housing and other costs are taken into account, 17.2% of Californians are considered poor, the highest rate nationwide. The figures suggest about a third of California’s poverty can be attributed to housing and other costs, which are responsible for putting an additional 2.3 million Californians below the poverty line. That maintains the state’s uninterrupted streak of claiming the greatest share of residents in poverty, a distinction it’s held since the federal government began publishing the statistic in 2011. The report is not without cause for encouragement. After declines across age, gender and racial groups, last year’s national supplemental poverty rate, 11.7%, was down a percentage point from the year before to the lowest share on record. That continued a downward trend dating ...
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