California’s Poverty Rate Tops 20.6 Percent, Nearly Double National Average

one in five homeless americans live in california

More Than 1 In 5 Californians Live Below Federal Poverty Line, When Adjusted for Cost of Living

According to the US Census Bureau’s Official Poverty Measure, California’s poverty rate hovers around 15 percent.

But that doesn’t tell the full story.  The Census Bureau measures poverty in reference to a uniform national standard, which doesn’t account for differences in living costs between states, ie. the cost of taxes, housing, and medical costs can differ greatly depending upon where you are.

The Public Policy Institute of California found that, when accounting for these differences, California’s true poverty rate is 20.6 percent—the highest in America.  In fact, it’s nearly twice the national average of 12.7 percent.



This is sad, especially when one considers the great wealth that California has to offer—California is the home of America’s biggest technology firms like Apple and Google, and it’s the world’s entertainment capital.  There’s big money there, but also big poverty.

This is why income inequality in California is so high.  In fact, if California were an independent nation, it would be the 17th most unequal place on earth—more unequal than Mexico, Guatemala, and Russia.

This is all the more ironic considering how Californians love to lecture the rest of the country on the virtues of of their progressive politics and socialism.  If it worked so great, then why is California such a disaster?  One should never throw stones from glass houses.

One Fifth of Homeless Americans Live in California

California is also unsurprisingly home to America’s largest homeless population.  The New York Times reports:

Every year, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development releases a Point in Time count of the homeless population. This year that number reached nearly 554,000. . .

More than one-quarter of the total homeless population nationwide lives in California, roughly 114,000. The vast majority are “unsheltered”—a more bureaucratic term to describe the thousands living on the streets, under freeways and tucked into grassy fields and parks in cities all around the state.

This is sad, but far from surprising.  Consider just how many tent cities and slums have sprung up on hillsides surrounding the freeways:

income inequality, as measured by the gini coefficient, has reached absurd levels in california

And let’s not forget about the subsidized housing ghettos, which even today are collapsing within sight of LA’s glittering skyscrapers:

los angeles ghetto

There are many reasons for California’s poverty problem, but the big one that no one wants to talk about is illegal immigration.  The fact is that illegal immigrants are a massive drain on California‘s welfare state, consuming some $30 billion of the state’s wealth annually (this includes federal costs and remittances).

Beyond the hard costs, illegals also take jobs from American citizens by undercutting the labor market (working for below market wages, forgoing health insurance etc.), and the added competition decreases wages for those who are lucky enough to remain employed.  This, in part, explains the state’s massive income inequality.

Furthermore, in order to pay for the welfare benefits given to illegal aliens, Californians are taxes heavily at the local level.  This is a contributing factor to the high poverty rate (as noted by the Public Policy Institute of California in the above study).

But no matter the cause, we can all agree that California’s in no place to sermonize to the rest of us about inequality, poverty, and homelessness.  Perhaps they should follow the lesson in Christ’s parable: remove the stick from their own eye first.

About Spencer P Morrison 136 Articles
J.D. B.A. in Ancient & Medieval History. Writer and independent intellectual, with a focus on applied philosophy, empirical history, and practical economics. Author of "Bobbins, Not Gold," Editor-In-Chief of the National Economics Editorial, and contributor to American Greatness. His work has appeared in publications including the Daily Caller, the American Thinker, and the Foundation for Economic Education.