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Struggling To Get By In Shasta County

United Way of California just released their new financial stability report Struggling To Get By, documenting the real costs of living in California’s communities in 2015, based on household composition. Here are some of the key findings:

  • One in three California households (31%) do not have sufficient income to meet their basic costs of living. This is three times the proportion officially considered poor in California, according to the Federal Poverty Level!
  • Households of color are disproportionately likely to have inadequate incomes. 51% of Latino households and 40% of African American households have incomes below the Real Cost Measure. This is followed by Asian American households (28%) and white households (20%).
  • 60 percent of households led by a non-citizen struggle to make ends meet. By contrast, 1 in 4 native-born and 36% of naturalized American citizens are below the Real Cost Measure.
  • Just over one-half of households with children under the age of six (51%) fall below the Real Cost Measure.
  • Nearly 2 in 3 (64%) householders maintained by single mothers have incomes below the Real Cost Measure. In contrast, just one-fourth of married couples with children (25%) are below the Real Cost Measure.
  • Two-thirds (68%) of householders with less than a high school education have incomes below the Real Cost Measure. That number falls to 13% for those with at least a Bachelor’s degree.
  • Struggling householders spend over 50% of their income on housing. Families living below the Federal Poverty Level can spend as much as 80% of their income on housing.
  • Two full-time, minimum wage jobs are not enough to sustain a family of four. Yet, two-person, two-child households with two full-time, minimum wage earners earn $33,280 in gross income still fall below the Real Cost Measure by $10,000 to $30,000, depending on where they live.
  • Almost 1 in 3 (31%) of California’s seniors are struggling (as defined by the Elder Index, refined by researchers at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development), despite seniors’ different needs and work-force participation.

From to the interactive map, here is the data specifically for “Shasta County – Redding City neighborhood cluster”:

  • Median household income is $49,883.
  • 14,732 households live below the Real Cost Measure.
  • 30% of households (about the same as California as a whole) fall below the Real Cost Measure; whereas using the Federal Poverty Level as the criteria only 19% of Shasta County’s population falls below.
  • 42% of households have a housing burden greater than 30%.
  • You can also determine the real cost of living based on family composition using their interactive dashboard – for example the real cost index for a family of 2 adults and 2 school aged children is $43,538, per the report.

Some important general conclusions of the report are:

  • The federal government’s official poverty measure vastly understates poverty, especially in California.
  • One in five (20%) struggling households are white, so while poverty is often portrayed in our media and culture as primarily a problem for minorities, the reality is that families of all ethnicities struggle.
  • The budget for a family changes over time—and the toughest time is the first years of its children’s lives (due to childcare costs.)
  • Households with children are at greater risk of not meeting their basic needs, especially when led by single mothers.
  • Education reduces the risk of financial insecurity, but the benefits of education are not equal for all.
  • Employment is key to making ends meet, but work is not enough.
  • High housing costs are a major burden for struggling households

Struggling to Get By “cuts through broadly held stereotypes about what those in poverty look like, what skills and education they hold, and what needs they have” and attempts to identify what levers might help struggling householders climb out of poverty. They offer the following general suggestions about what is to be done:

  • Emphasize education beyond high school.
  • Focus on moving households up the pay scale.
  • Invest in children.
  • Effectively link households to public assistance.
  • Make income supports available longer as families move up.
  • Help households build and protect assets.
  • Reduce the effective cost of housing.

Carol Jackson, chair of United Way of California implores that “The well-being of our communities depends, in part, on our ability to help struggling residents find pathways out of poverty. Our challenge is to make it possible for all working California families to earn enough to meet the Real Cost Measure of basic needs. We need leaders from every sector to join us as we strive to develop the best solutions for our communities and our state.”

As previously reported on this blog, since November 2014 United Way of Northern California has been convening community leaders through their Prosperity Initiative to come up with action plans specifically for our community.

Leadership Redding Alumni is hosting an interactive preview of the year-long work of participants in the Prosperity Initiative from 5-7:30 PM on Wednesday, October 21, 2015 at the community Room of Redding Library. Email me or leave a comment below if you are interested in participating in this local event.