By: Richard Vega
United Ways of California released a new, statewide poverty report called Struggling to Stay Afloat: The Real Cost Measure in California 2018. Unlike the official federal poverty level, which does not accurately account for local costs of living, the Real Cost Measure looks at current costs of housing, food, health care, child care, transportation and other basic needs to determine what it truly costs to live in California. The study results are presented in a data-rich website that enables users to examine each of California’s 58 counties at the neighborhood level, with county profiles and interactive maps.
To help people visualize the hardships households throughout California face, the Real Cost Measure online resources also include interactive maps that reveal the number and percentage of households living below the Real Cost Measure, median household earnings and areas in which housing burden greater than 30 percent of a household’s gross income.
• Not earning enough: Nine in 10 households living below the Real Cost Measure include at least one working adult
• Housing burden: Nearly four in 10 households in California (38 percent) spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and families below the federal poverty level spend as much as 79 percent of their income on their homes
• Citizenship and language barriers: 45 percent of households led by a person born outside the U.S. are below the Real Cost Measure, and that number rises to 63 percent when the householder is not a citizen. Latino noncitizens especially struggle, with 80 percent living below the Real Cost Measure
• Nearly 600,000 households in the San Francisco Bay Area struggle to meet basic needs (26%)
• 34% of households in the San Francisco Bay Area pay at least 30% of their income on housing
• 69% of householders in the San Francisco Bay Area without a high school diploma fall below the Real Cost Measure, compared to 47% with a high school diploma, 32% with some college education, and 13% with a bachelor’s degree
• 68% of Single Mothers in the San Francisco Bay Area fall below the Real Cost Measure