New U.S. Census State and Local Data on Poverty Underscores Need for Bold Action to Reduce Child Poverty in California

California child poverty rate drops slightly; children of color lag behind

For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 15, 2016

For More Information Contact:

Cadonna Dory, , (323)385-6342(c)

U.S. Census Bureau data released today reveal that 1.9 million California children (21.2%) lived in poverty in 2015, down slightly since 2014, when 2.05 million California children (22.7%) were poor. Children remain the poorest age group, and research confirms that poverty is especially devastating for children.

Children of color continue to be disproportionately poor: 28.5% (1,328,619) of Latino children, 31.0% (150,457) of Black children, 11.4% (115,846) of Asian children and 33.2% (23,300) of American Indian/Alaska Native children were poor in 2015, compared to 10.3% (240,953) of White children.

A striking number of California children live in extreme poverty, defined as less than half the poverty level, putting them at severe risk of homelessness, trauma, and hunger. In 2015, 795,846 California children (8.9%) lived in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $33 a day for a family of four.

“Child poverty is an economic and moral crisis for our state. We are trapping too many of California’s children, particularly our children of color, in a cycle of poverty that robs them of opportunities and undermines their futures,” said Alex Johnson, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California. “California’s lawmakers have made some progress in addressing poverty in recent years, but we can – and must – do more to enact a bold, comprehensive plan to end child poverty in California.”

“We urge policymakers at the state and local level to implement policies that ensure parents have jobs that pay enough to support a family – including expanding the California Earned Income Tax Credit to all working poor families and increasing access to quality child care – and strengthen the social safety need to meet children’s basic needs,” said Michele Stillwell-Parvensky, Senior Policy and Government Affairs Manager at Children’s Defense Fund-California.

The data released today are based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s official poverty measure. An alternative Census measure, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), suggests that these figures substantially understate how many children face economic hardship in California due to the state’s high cost of living.

Poverty is defined as an annual income below $24,257 for a family of four, or less than $2,021 a month, or $66.46 a day. Extreme poverty is half of the annual poverty level, or less than $12,129 for a family of four.


The Children’s Defense Fund-California (CDF-CA) is a state office of the Children’s Defense Fund, a national child advocacy organization founded by Marian Wright Edelman that has worked relentlessly for over 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. With offices in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento and Long Beach, CDF-CA champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty, ensure all children have access to health coverage and care and a quality education, and invest in our justice-involved youth.  


Related Resources

Huffington Post: Why California Must End Child Poverty

Child Poverty in California

Child Poverty in America 2015: National Analysis

Child Poverty in California Counties

Extreme Child Poverty in California Counties

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