Over the past couple weeks, a number of federal reports have shed some light on the economic picture here in California and across the country. We’ve already touched on how the recent U.S. Census Bureau report on insurance coverage has shown a marked drop in uninsurance rates thanks to the Affordable Care Act. However, other reports on employment paint a bleaker portrait of California’s economy, particularly for low-income communities of color.
This week, Dan Walters at The Sacramento Beepenned a distressing essay on the state of our state’s economy. He starts by pointing out that the monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the state added tens of thousands of jobs in the past month but Walters notes that these numbers are misleading based on another report on regional economies from the Bureau of Economic Analysis:
Finally, a Bureau of Economic Analysis report on regional economies revealed that outside the red-hot San Francisco Bay Area, California’s economy trailed national expansion last year, and several rural areas actually saw declines.
Taken together, the voluminous data dumps reveal that those on the upper rungs of the economic ladder, and the communities in which they cluster, particularly in the Bay Area, are doing well. However, very large portions of the state, both geographically and sociologically, are struggling.
Welcome to This Week in Equity Engagement on Twitter (TWEET) for the week of September 14, 2015. This week was highlighted by the U.S. Census Bureau’s release of national and state-level poverty and insurance coverage data. As such, this edition of TWEET features many analyses of this data:
More Americans have health insurance now than any year on record. Check out this great analysis of the Census data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Welcome to This Week in Equity Engagement on Twitter (TWEET) for the week of September 7, 2015. Our weekly hodgepodge of equity-related conversations covers a number of great topics this week, so let’s get to it:
The legislature passed a bill that will require translation of prescription drug labels. Our Executive Director Sarah de Guia commented on the measure on KQED.
Ten years ago this weekend, the world watched as Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and laid bare the inequities that are deeply ingrained in American society. Perhaps no single event has ever highlighted the intersection between race, poverty, climate, and health as clearly as the devastation in New Orleans.
Katrina put a spotlight on an uncomfortable truth: that millions of people in this country live in abject poverty and that communities of color are far more likely to experience the consequences of the country’s entrenched inequality. In 2005, nearly 40 million Americans (roughly 1 in every 7) lived in poverty. A decade later, there has been hardly any change in the nation’s poverty rate. In Louisiana, 34% of Blacks live in poverty compared to 10% of Whites. High poverty rates have made housing less affordable, and as a result, low-income populations and communities of color often live in areas of concentrated poverty in substandard housing with the constant threat of eviction. Even though Katrina took place nearly 2,000 miles away from California, the underlying social factors that exacerbated the destruction experienced by low-income communities of color – particularly African Americans – are evident here and throughout the country.
The Census numbers rely on the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is currently $11,770 per year for an individual and $24,250 per year for a family of four. What Struggling to Get By reveals, however, is that those numbers are actually too low. The report creates a new metric, the Real Cost Measure, to analyze what a family’s true expenses are and what the necessary annual income is to meet them. While the Real Cost Measure varies by location based on cost-of-living differences, the average income needed to meet basic needs costs for a family of two adults, one infant, and one school-aged child who rent housing is $57,202 per year, or nearly two and a half times FPL. San Francisco’s Real Cost Measure, the highest in the state, is $73,894 per year, or more than three times FPL. The lowest Real Cost Measure in the state, $43,229 in Tulare County, is still nearly twice FPL.
Housing costs across the country, particularly in California, are rising at such a rate that many renters struggle on a monthly basis to afford somewhere to live. That is the primary finding from a sobering new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Out of Reach 2015: Low Wages and High Rents Lock Renters Out.
The report determines housing affordability by examining the average monthly rent for a two bedroom apartment, which is $1,386 in California. This number ranks California third among the areas measured by the report, but the top two, Hawaii and the District of Columbia, are considerably smaller in both area and population. In order to afford that level of rent and utilities without paying more than 30% of their income on housing, the average California household must earn an hourly rate, or Housing Wage, of $26.65 for a 40 hour work week. For some perspective, those working minimum wage would have to work 118 hours a week to afford the average two-bedroom rent in California.
There are also dramatic differences between counties in California. In San Francisco County, for instance, the Housing Wage is $39.65 while in Merced County it is $14.60. However, average income also varies substantially between counties, so housing remains equally unaffordable. For example, in San Francisco, a household would need 1.2 full-time jobs at the median wage earned by renters in the county to afford a two-bedroom apartment. In Merced, despite the lower housing costs, a household would need 1.3 full-time jobs at the median wage earned by renters in the county to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
On Thursday, May 14th, Governor Jerry Brown released his revised budget proposal for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Despite a rosy economic picture with $6.7 billion in additional revenues, the revised budget does not restore any of the devastating cuts made during the recession to health and human services programs on which millions of Californians rely. The majority of the additional revenues ($5.5 billion) will go to K-12 education, but the remaining $1.2 billion will be split between the Rainy Day Fund and paying down debts.
Just as our state endures an historic drought, millions of Californians also face extreme needs and can’t afford to wait for that rainy day! Locking these funds away won’t help Medi-Cal recipients who are struggling to find a doctor because of low reimbursement rates or can’t access dental care due to limited dental benefits; or those on CalWORKS whose benefits were cut so severely that they remain in deep poverty. The budget proposal also fails to include funding for Health for All legislation to extend coverage to the over one million undocumented immigrants left out of the Affordable Care Act. Senator Holly Mitchell put it best when she said, “The budget is not simply a math problem…The Legislature has options to use a significant portion of the funds to meet human needs.”
Welcome to Friday Facts! Each week we'll be taking a look at a specific chart from the Data & Resources section of our website. This week we're focusing on food security in Alameda County.
We’ve talked before about how the economic prosperity of the Bay Area has not trickled down to all populations in the region, but in today’s Friday Facts we’ll see some striking disparities in the East Bay.
Food security, simply put, is the ability to afford enough food on a consistent basis. In today’s Friday Facts chart, we can see the rates of food insecurity, by race and ethnicity, among people in Alameda County living below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Among this population, African Americans (57.4%) are more than twice as likely as Whites (26.9%) to be unable to afford food on a consistent basis, and Latinos (50.2%) are nearly twice as likely. These families often have to make the difficult choice between food and other basic needs.
For today’s Friday Facts, we’re taking a look at a particularly vulnerable population in a location best known as the seat of power for the state. As you can see from the table on our website, there are high rates of poverty among children in Sacramento County. In particular, children in communities of color experience high rates of poverty. For example, African American children (42.2%) are nearly three times as likely to live in poverty as their White counterparts (14.8%). Latino children (34.8%) and Asian children (22.2%) are also more likely to live in poverty than White children.