End Child Poverty

California has the highest child poverty rate in the nation. More than 1 in 4 California children are poor — 2.2 million children. 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.

Through the Ending Child Poverty Now campaign, we engage in research and policy analysis and build coalitions to advocate for policies  at the local, state, and federal levels that reduce child poverty. We support state legislation and budget actions and local efforts to invest in policies and programs that increase employment and make work pay for parents and expand the social safety net to ensure children’s basic needs are met.

We also recognize the need to create 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.

Our new report, Ending Child Poverty Now: Local Approaches to California, outlines six strategic priorities that cities and counties should consider when addressing child poverty, and highlights local child poverty solutions being implemented by communities in California and across the nation.

CDF Report: Ending Child Poverty Now

The Children’s Defense Fund’s groundbreaking report, Ending Child Poverty Now, 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.

A companion report by the Children’s Defense Fund - California presents key state policy recommendations for how California can reduce the state’s high child poverty rate.

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

Our latest report, Ending Child Poverty Now: Local Approaches for California, outlines six strategic priorities that cities and counties should consider when addressing child poverty:

  1. Enable Parents and Caregivers to Find Work that Pays a Living Wage 
  2. Develop a Robust Safety Net to Help Families When they Fall on Hard Times 
  3. Implement Financial Capability and Asset-Building Programs to Promote Youth and Family Economic Success 
  4. Create Dedicated Funding Mechanisms to Support Local Anti-Poverty Strategies 
  5. Identify Specific Local Needs and Develop Strong Partnerships to Coordinate and Target Resources 
  6. Invest in Education, Health, and Youth Development to Break the Cycle of Poverty
Impact of Child Poverty

Growing up poor negatively impacts the entire trajectory of a child’s life.

  • Child poverty creates gaps in cognitive skills that can be seen as early as 9 months old, and those gaps continue to widen with age. One study found that by age 4, high-income children had heard 30 million more words than poor children.
  • Extreme poverty can produce toxic stress that literally rewires a child’s brain and negatively impacts brain functioning for life.
  • Child poverty jeopardizes children’s health and their ability to learn in school. Poor children are less likely to enter school ready to learn and to graduate from high school than their non-poor peers.
  • All of these disadvantages of child poverty compound and produce lifetime negative consequences: children who grow up poor are less likely to find a well-paying job, more likely to have poor health and more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system.
  • Ultimately, child poverty fuels the intergenerational cycle of poverty as poor children are more likely to be become poor adults and parents.
  • Child poverty costs the nation an estimated $500 billion a year in lost productivity and earnings and increased health and crime costs or 3.8 percent of GDP.

To learn more about on the research on the devastating impact of child poverty, please read Chapter 1 of CDF’s report, Ending Child Poverty Now.

Statistics and Resources

Get the latest research and data on child poverty in California and beyond.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure, which takes into account the 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
  • 17.5% of Asian/Pacific Islanders in California were poor
  • 10.1% of White 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

For local data on child poverty in California, visit kidsdata.org.

Our Partners

The following coalitions and organizations are working hard to end child poverty in California.

Raising California Together

Raising California Together is a broad coalition of child care providers, agencies, parents, educators, clergy and interfaith networks, unions, small businesses, women’s and children’s advocates, community groups, and public health organizations united to press for local, state, and national policy solutions to increase access to quality child care and early learning choices. http://raisingcaliforniatogether.org/

L.A. Raise the Wage

L.A. Raise the Wage is a coalition of business, labor and community leaders trying to accomplish what economists, small businesses, and workers are all asking us to do: Raise the minimum wage – and not just a little, but enough to bring the hundreds of thousands of Angelenos who power our economy into the middle class. It’s good for business, it’s good for taxpayers, and, most of all, it’s the right thing to do for workers, who have earned it. http://www.laraisethewage.org/

Western Center on Law & Poverty

Western Center on Law & Poverty, California’s oldest and largest legal services support center, was created in 1967 by a passionate group of attorneys and legal scholars from USC, UCLA and Loyola law schools. Western Center leads the fight in the courts, counties and capital to secure housing, health care and a strong safety net for low-income Californians. http://www.wclp.org/

California Partnership

The California Partnership is a statewide coalition of community-based groups, organizing and advocating for the policies and programs that work to reduce and end poverty. We organize to build power and leadership among low-income communities to shape the policies that affect our lives the most and reduce poverty. http://www.california-partnership.org/

California Budget Project

The California Budget & Policy Center was established in 1995 to provide Californians with a source of timely, objective, and accessible expertise on state fiscal and economic policy issues. The Budget Center engages in independent fiscal and policy analysis and public education with the goal of improving the economic and social well-being of low- and middle-income Californians. http://calbudgetcenter.org/