More than a quarter of Orange County's youngest kids lives in poverty
A quarter of California’s children under age six were living in poverty, more than 750,000, as the state emerged from the Great Recession, according to new data from nine local regions on income, demographics, cost of living, social safety programs and other factors.
The Geography of Child Poverty in California, a report and interactive map compiled by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California, offers a trove of information on variations within counties, much of which had never previously been analyzed.
In Los Angeles County, 30 percent of young children lived below the California Poverty Measure line, which takes into account cost of living and social program benefits.
But the vast county also included the lowest and highest poverty rates for the state: from 4 percent in Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Hermosa Beach, to 68 percent in the southeastern section of downtown Los Angeles.
In Orange County, 27 percent of young children lived in poverty. And the difference between rich and poor areas was wide: from 9 percent in Newport Beach, Aliso Viejo and Laguna Hills, to 48 percent in East Santa Ana.
In the Inland Empire, 23 percent of young children lived in poverty. The proportion varied from 8 percent in Temecula City to 35 percent in West San Bernardino.
The report covers data from 2011 to 2014, the most recent available from the U.S. Census bureau and California administrative records on safety net program enrollment. Researchers said the numbers have likely changed little because wages and benefits have continued to stagnate for lower-income workers.
For the average young child in poverty, a family’s total resources, including earnings and benefits from safety net programs, were below $26,100 per year for a family of four.
Seventy-one percent of poor children lived in families with at least one working adult. It is a statistic which speaks to the dearth of living wages in many Southern California industries such as hotels, theme parks, warehouses, retail stores, fast food outlets and home care services.
“Over the last four years, we have been developing the means to look at narrower slices of data at the sub-county level,” said PPIC researcher Sarah Bohn who wrote the report along with PPIC researcher Caroline Danielson. “We can now see where poverty is concentrated. There is enormous variation from neighborhood to neighborhood.”
The report breaks out data from 256 local areas in the state. It features six broad categories: child poverty, demographics, family resources, education and employment, cost of living and safety net.
So readers can delve into the report’s online interactive map to look at, for example, the percentage of children living below the poverty line in Encino and Tarzana (33 percent) and the percentage living in “deep poverty,” or below half the poverty line, (10 percent).
Readers can dig into the data for Anaheim, home to Disneyland, Orange County’s largest employer, and discover that the median income for poor families with young children was $20,185 and 39 percent of young children lived in poverty. They can note that 66 percent of young children in the area also relied on food stamps.
Readers can explore the city of Riverside to learn that 29 percent of young children lived in poverty, that 42 percent lived with a single parent, while average earnings were $9,076 and safety net benefits amounted to another $9,476.
Poverty levels are higher in coastal areas such as Los Angeles and Orange Counties than in the Inland Empire mainly because of costly housing. “Many poor families with young children are spending more than half of their income on housing,” Bohn said.
In Orange County, where the average rent is about $1800 a month, city officials, under pressure from no-growth constituents, have resisted building new apartment complexes. As a lack of supply has driven up rents and home prices, young families have been relocating to states such as Texas where housing is less expensive.