More than 6 million Californians are living in poverty, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s up more than 4 percent since before the recession began in 2006. Household income fell by the biggest margin on record — and nearly one in four California children lives in poverty. We look at the numbers and the lives of those impacted by poverty.

Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a public policy research group based in Sacramento
Poncho Guevara, executive director of Sacred Heart Community Service, an anti-poverty organization based in San Jose
Aimee Durfee, vice president for community investment at United Way of the Bay Area

  • Fay

    “80% of poor homes have “microwave ovens”? What clueless fool wrote this?? Microwaves ovens have sold for $30., often less than the price of a toaster, for years! That’s luxury?? 

  • Alicia Hodenfield

    Perhaps people aren’t more outraged as they’re just trying to stay afloat themselves…

    • In Berkeley

      Yes.  I’m trying to stay afloat.  Please see my comment regarding prop 13.

  • Livegreenoak

    The middle class is evaporating, and we need jobs & stimulus, yet:
    -Federally big business wants access to Chinese markets so they & Wall Street urge our politicians to refuse to enforce free & fair trade with China;
    -Republicans are promoting policies advocated by President Hoover;

    -In CA Republicans oppose higher taxes on the rich who support them;
    -Democrats oppose lower costs & benefits for all State workers who support them;
    -We bring in an unending steam of poor immigrants who we then have to educate, while our schools are being cut more than any other part of Govt.

    Conservative & Liberal interest groups pay the Republicans & Democrats not to compromise.  Our country is gridlocked, & so nothing will change.

    Right when it has to the most…

  • Guest

    For $22,000 employers can hire a highly qualified engineer in India or China.  Globalization will have negative impact on our standard of living and will affect lower skilled workforce more even though it is difficult for us to accept it. 

  • Sam

    Fees at community colleges, UCs and Cal States are shooting through the roof. It is a tragedy to have tuition going up while wages go down. What long-term impact will a loss of affordable university as an option have on the poverty rate? Will the loss of college opportunities lead to an increase in social conflict or crisis? Is there a set of policy suggestions being suggested by the State or federal government to compensate for this?

    • In Berkeley

      Hi Sam.  I’m not sure if one should lump community colleges with UC and the Cal State system.  There is recognition of the need to keep community colleges affordable.  I believe tuition for all community colleges in California was raised from $28 per unit to $36 per unit.  Tuition at the community colleges is still affordable.  What is difficult about attending the community colleges are buying books (I often found that to exceed tuition) and finding a way to cover living expenses while attending classes. 

  • Darpan

    Michael, I hear in the program your guest speak about requiring air conditioners, healthy meals, several bedroom houses for larger families.

    (1) First I’d like to compare the “standard of living” and what constitutes below poverty line. The guest did not want to compare US standards with a developed nation such as Sweden. I would like to share that in perhaps less developed countries like India, it is normal for middle-class families not to have air-conditioners (in warmer weather compared to California) and to share rooms to live in. It is normal for a family of 4 to live in a 2 room (note: not 2 bedroom) apartment.

    (2) Section 8 housing in the San Francisco Bay Area provides a family of 4 or 5 a really nice 3-4 bedroom house at just $600 monthly rent (when Govt. pays $1800). If we were to imagine a family to afford the same house by paying mortgage, they would be categorized as middle-class. Another example that the “standard of living” in US and California may need to be rethought.

    • Myself

      It would be better to have a family of 4 living in a one bedroom apartment with a good school district than a 3 bedroom home in a bad school district.

      However, the neighbors in the good school district will object and Tea Party types will call it redistribution of wealth.

  • Kt

    My hours at work were just cut. I live in San Francisco, and the food stamps office here takes federal standards for aid. They don’t take into account regional inflation or cost-of-living. Yeah, you can get a room for $100 a month in West Tumbleweed, North Carolina, but I’m paying $615 for a crappy converted living room in The City. For me to qualify for food stamps, I need to make under $1100/mo BEFORE taxes and health insurance. I’m disabled, and I need a lot of continuing medical care. Insurance is $180/mo PLUS however much I spend on prescriptions, medical devices (canes, ace bandages), and productivity lost due to chronic pain and disability. I’ve started to play violin on the street for grocery money. I’m in this horrible limbo where I’m barely scraping along but don’t qualify for a single cent of aid. 

  • aj

    I think part of the the push-back on poverty issues is the lack of consideration given to personal responsibility.  The statistics cited by the heritage foundation are, I think, attempting to speak to that.  Sometimes, perhaps frequently, those in poverty may make poor choices of how to use their resources i.e. by spending on what might be considered a luxury rather than on the out and out necessities.  During times of economic hardship when governments are strapped, people become frustrated by all of these social programs, especially when they lack a structure that require personal responsibility.  Another factor in all of this, I think, is the transition towards more and more individuality in society.  I can’t help but think that, decades ago, it wasn’t the government that provided the safety net, but families.  

    • In Berkeley

      Hi AJ.  One thing I would like to see is that if many feel that these social programs should be made more robust, and yet we fail to tax ourselves to do so, then why not make a voluntary contribution to the taxing authorities?  I often hear people who are upset that taxes aren’t higher, yet they are not upset enough to simply make a voluntary contribution to the various taxing authorities.  It is somewhat hypocritical to be upset and yet to voluntarily open-up one’s pocketbook.  I’m currently unemployed and would love to be in a position to do so.

  • Richard Seyman

    I was glad Michael obliquely mentioned the Elephant in the room.  He labeled it “ideology.”  I would be more terse and called the GOP.  The problem is not that liberals and conservatives can’t compromise.  That idea is a complete crock or complete denial of the obvious.  Conservatives are not concerned about poverty.  They have done everything in their power to help the rich get richer and drive more Americans into poverty.  The real thing that “liberals” and middle-of-the-roaders seem to scared to face is the necessity of actually  going into out-front battle against these right wingers in a concerted way.  Unless and until we face up to that, we will not avoid a catastrophic future. 
    The idea that we can somehow tweek things, have a more organized set of social services, etc., etc. and make a real difference is ludicrous and that kind of “workaround” idea is damaging to the prospects for waking up those that might be willing to take a stand sooner rather than after it is too late.

  • Chemist150

    Ironic that we’d call a self sustaining farmer living in poverty although, they and their family might have all that they need and more but qualify for “assistance”.  It’s funny how lifestyles change definitions via loss of traditional knowledge and lifestyles.

  • Eric Jorgensen

    The term poverty is as much a political term as economic term.  We can puff up the poverty numbers or lower the poverty numbers by changing the criteria for poverty.  Using the current notion of poverty, more than 90% of the American people who lived and built this country in the 19th centrury and the first part of the 20th century lived in poverty.

    We can brag that “our poor” or our people who live in poverty are much better off than the middle class in most African countries.

  • JoeMc

    It’d be good to have a discussion about the many causes of poverty.

  • Myself

    Poverty is simply a lack of wealth. Social mobility is a different thing.

    Is poverty needed to make a market economy work or is social mobility and competition needed?

    If poverty is not needed, but social mobility and competition are, then we should enact policies that eliminate poverty, increase social mobility and  competition.

    It is amazing to me that our politicians can’t frame the argument pragmatically when reacting to facts that have neither villains nor heroes.

  • In Berkeley

    I live in Berkeley and bought my house not too long ago.  I recently heard a listener who purchased hers just before prop 13 took effect and wished property taxes were higher.  Well mine are pretty high and I’m currently unemployed.  I would like to be in her position and also have the luxury of wishing for higher property taxes.  For those who want higher property taxes and are upset that they are not, why not voluntarily pay those additional taxes?  I would love to be in that position.  

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