One in three California families are struggling to cover their daily needs, according to a new study released by United Ways of California.
According to the study — “Struggling to Move Up: The Real Cost Measure in California 2021” — 3.5 million households, overwhelmingly working families, are struggling to cover the local costs of living, which includes housing, child care, health care, food, transportation, and taxes.
While all households of all races struggle, communities of color struggle at higher rates to provide for their families. In California:
● More than 1.7 million Latino families are unable to meet a decent standard of living. While Latino households comprise 32% of households in California, 52% of Latino households have incomes below the Real Cost Measure.
● Over 260,000 Black families or 48% of Black households are unable to cover a basic standard of living.
● Nearly 483,000 Asian American/Pacific Islander families or 28% of Asian American/Pacific Islander households are unable to meet basic standard of living.
● More than 13,000 Native American/Alaskan Native or 39% of Native American/Alaskan Native households are unable to meet a decent standard of living.
Many households of color will often have at least one working adult and require child care or caregiving services, a commonality in multi-generational and immigrant families. According to the study, the actual cost of a decent standard of living for a family of four (two adults, one pre-schooler and one school-aged child) in Los Angeles County is $95,112 and $77,072 for a similar family in Sacramento County.
“The Real Cost Measure study finds that nearly 2.5 million households of color are struggling to meet living costs and provide decent standards of living for their families and their children,” said Peter Manzo, president and CEO of United Ways of California.
“The disproportionate impact of communities of color who are living below the Real Cost Measure shows there are significant gaps, lack of access to programs and supports that will allow families and their children to live with dignity. 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,” Manzo said.”
Other key findings include:
● 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: 54% of households in California with children younger than six-years-old fall below the Real Cost Measure.
● 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 (35%), and those with at least a bachelor’s degree (16%).
● Single Mothers: Over 7 in 10 households led by single mothers in California (71%) 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 US are below the Real Cost Measure, a figure which rises to 59% when the household is led by someone without US citizenship. Meanwhile, only 26% of households led by a person born in the US earn income below the Real Cost Measure.
The study is based on the United Ways of California’s analysis of: (1) county-by-county costs of a no-frills household budget that meets a decent standard of living, and (2) the US Census Bureau’s Community Survey data on 2019 household earnings.
The study’s website provides figures for each of California’s 58 counties, down to the city and neighborhood level, and offers interactive maps and a feature that calculates how much a family in any region needs to make ends meet.
For more information regarding the study, visit unitedwaysca.org/realcost.