Capitol Alert

Californians have high poverty, high incomes

Farm workers pull weeds in a Kings County field in 2014. The agricultural county has California’s hghest poverty rate, according to a new Census Bureau study.
Farm workers pull weeds in a Kings County field in 2014. The agricultural county has California’s hghest poverty rate, according to a new Census Bureau study. NYT

Californians have both above-average poverty levels and above-average median family incomes, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The bureau fixed California’s official poverty rate in 2014 at 16.4 percent, representing 6.25 million residents of the state and nearly a full percentage point higher than the national rate of 15.5 percent.

Fourteen states had rates higher than California’s, topped by Mississippi’s 21.9 percent, while New Hampshire was the lowest at 9.2 percent.

However, the official poverty rate calculated for the report used a half-century-old method that makes no allowance for regional differences in either incomes or living costs. The bureau has developed a “supplemental measure” that takes those and other factors into account and by that method, California’s poverty rate is the nation’s highest at 24.3 percent, largely due to its extraordinarily high housing costs.

Californians’ median family income, $61,927, was well above the national median of $53,657 last year and one of the nation’s highest. Just seven other states had higher incomes, topped by Massachusetts’ $73,859. The lowest median income was West Virginia’s $41,030.

The report also revealed major disparities in poverty and income among California’s 58 counties.

San Mateo County, nestled between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, had the state’s lowest official poverty rate, 7.5 percent, and its highest median family income, $100,806.

Agricultural Kings County, 150 miles southeast of San Mateo, had the state’s highest poverty rate, 24.9 percent, and one of its lowest income levels.

Residents of mountainous Trinity County had the lowest median income, $34,961, scarcely a third of San Mateo’s. It’s doubtful, however, whether the Census Bureau data included Trinity’s large underground marijuana industry.

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