California Has the Nation’s Highest Poverty

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

September 15, 2017
Twenty Percent of Californians Live in Poverty
Twenty Percent of Californians Live in Poverty.

While Sacramento is promoting various bills that would restrict Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Census Bureau released data that suggests California should consider the effects more immigration has on the state’s well-being. An eye-popping one in five Californians lives in poverty.

Using new methodology, the “Supplemental Poverty Measure” which includes the state’s exorbitantly high housing costs where two-thirds of Californians pay $1,500 or more monthly for a two-bedroom apartment, the Census Bureau found that in a three-year average of 2014, 2015 and 2016, an estimated 20.4 percent of Californians lived below the poverty line.

Formerly, the Census Bureau relied on the now defunct “Official Poverty Measure” which excluded housing costs and other variables that reflected a stronger but misleading portrait of lower income Californians’ economic status. As Sara Kimberlin, senior policy analyst at the California Budget and Policy Center (CBPC) said: “Californians are more likely to be poor than residents in any other state.”

To boost the poor into a higher economic strata, CBPC, other non-profits, and the California Assembly urge greater economic opportunity, and expanded, federal benefits which would represent, at best, only a partial solution. The rest of the equation would include promoting lower immigration levels instead of passing bills at the state level that encourage more people to come to California.

In his National Review article titled “It’s Still a Mad, Mad California,” CAPS advisory board member Victor Davis Hansen wrote: “We [Californians] have the largest number of billionaires and the largest number of impoverished, both in real numbers and as a percentage of the state population.”

If Governor Jerry Brown and elites like Mark Zuckerberg truly cared about immigrants’ welfare, they’d advocate for fewer of them so that the ones already here and struggling would have a better chance to climb out of poverty.

Because it would, over a decade, cut immigration to the more traditional 500,000 annual level, eliminate the diversity visa, and reduce refugee resettlement---actions that would cut the number of lifetime work authorization permits issued--- Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue’s (R-GA) RAISE Act would open up more job opportunities to immigrants. Employment is the first step out of poverty. 
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