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California has the highest child poverty rate in the nation. More than one in four California children are poor. The burden of poverty falls disproportionately on children of color, with 1 in 3 Black and Latino children in California living in poverty. Growing up poor has lifetime negative consequences, decreasing the likelihood of graduating from high school and increasing the likelihood of becoming a poor adult, suffering from poor health, and becoming involved in the criminal justice system.
California can – and must – end child poverty. We must invest in policies and programs that increase employment and make work pay for parents and caregivers and expand the social safety net to ensure children’s basic needs are met. We must also implement policies that break the cycle of poverty by ensuring children and families have access to affordable health care, quality early learning, high-performing schools, and families and neighborhoods free from violence.
On January 28, 2015, the Children’s Defense Fund released a groundbreaking report entitled Ending Child Poverty Now that details how the U.S. could substantially reduce child poverty immediately. If policymakers invested an additional 2 percent of the federal budget to expand existing federal programs and policies to increase employment, make work pay, and ensure children’s basic needs are met, 60 percent of poor children across the country – and 58 percent of California’s children – would be lifted out of poverty and 97 percent of all poor children would benefit.
A companion report by the Children's Defense Fund - California presents key state policy recommendations for how California can reduce child poverty: including enacting a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and expanding child care subsidies.
California has the opportunity to substantially reduce the state’s high child poverty rate by investing in policies and programs that increase employment, make work pay, and expand safety net supports to ensure children’s basic needs are met. This investment would eventually pay for itself since protecting children against the lifelong consequences of poverty would improve their lifetime earnings and outcomes and reduce poverty in future generations.
Children’s Defense Fund-California recommends the following state policy changes to reduce child poverty:
Read more about CDF-CA state policy recommendations: Ending Child Poverty Now: California.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure, which takes into account cost of living and the impact of public benefits, in 2012:
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's standard poverty measure, in 2013:
For more information on CDF-CA's research and advocacy work on child poverty, contact:
Senior Policy & Communications Associate