Policy Priorities

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Ending Child Poverty in California

Untitled Document

California has the highest child poverty rate in the nation. More than 1 in 4 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. 

New CDF Report: Ending Child Poverty Now

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.

Read the reports

California Policy Recommendations

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:

  1. Enact a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) 
  2. Raise the state minimum wage
  3. Expand the number of child care slots for low income children 
  4. Make the state Tax Credit for Child & Dependent Care Expenses refundable 
  5. Increase CalWORKs basic needs benefits and eliminate the Maximum Family Grant rule in CalWORKs 
  6. Fund transportation for low-income children 
  7. Increase participation in CalFresh by integrating enrollment with health care enrollment
  8. Fund a state housing trust fund to develop affordable housing for extremely low income families

Read more about CDF-CA state policy recommendations: Ending Child Poverty Now: California.

Child Poverty Statistics

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:

  • 26.6% of California children were poor
  • 35.2% of African-American children in California were poor
  • 37.8% of Latino children in California were poor

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's standard poverty measure, in 2013:

  • 886,219 (9.8%) California children lived in deep poverty - below half of the poverty line
  • 31.6% of California children under age 6 lived in poverty

Contact Us About Ending Child Poverty

For more information on CDF-CA's research and advocacy work on child poverty, contact:

Michele Stillwell-Parvensky
Senior Policy & Communications Associate
(510) 663-1294