Report: One of every three Black and brown families struggles to meet basic needs in California

A study found that Black and Latino families, and households headed by immigrants, single mothers or parents with lower educational attainment all experience disproportionate hardship.

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One in every three Black and brown families living in California struggles more than other races and ethnicities to cover their basic expenses.

A United Ways of California study revealed that Black and Latino families, households headed by immigrants, parents with lower educational attainment, and families led by single mothers all experience disproportionate hardship, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The analysis uses a “real cost measure,” as described by the group, rather than the official poverty level as a baseline for calculating a family’s essential needs.

A third of Black and brown families in California struggle to make ends meet, a new study finds.. (Photo Credit: Adobe Stock)

Compared to other races and ethnicities, more than 51% of Latino and 45% of Black families fall below the real cost threshold. However, only 23% of white households and 30% of Asian American families make less money.

Financial security increases with higher levels of education. In California, nearly 70% of households headed by a person without a high school diploma make less money than the actual cost of living. Eighteen percent of households led by someone with a bachelor’s degree fall short.

Approximately 57% of households headed by immigrants dropped below the true cost level, compared to 37% of homes naturalized and 29% of households headed by American citizens.

Statewide, single mothers struggle more to make ends meet than families with two parents. Seven out of 10 families headed by single moms were below the real cost standard.

Peter Manzo, president and chief executive officer of United Ways of California, suggested that the real cost measure serve as the benchmark for determining state priorities.

“This study is a wake-up call to elected officials, civic leaders, the business sector, and community members,” Manzo said, “that much more needs to be done to help families thrive.”

The 1960s-era poverty statistic from the U.S. Census Bureau, annually updated for inflation, determines baseline living. In contrast, the United Ways’ study factors in other necessities, including housing, health care, child care and transportation.

United Ways noted that a family of four with two adults, one infant, and one school-aged child must make an estimated $87,096 annually to be financially secure. The family would need close to three full-time minimum-wage jobs to make that much money, even at Sacramento’s minimum hourly wage of $15.50.

Nearly the same number of Californians reported struggling to make ends meet in 2023 as in the previous four rounds of the study, the first of which was published in 2015. The two most significant expenses for families were cited frequently as housing and childcare bills.

The 2023 analysis discovered that 34% of households in California — or around 3.7 million households — fall below the real cost threshold. At least one adult works a full-time job in 97% of these homes.

During a Tuesday media call, Henry Gascon, director of program and policy development for United Ways of California, described the findings as “inexcusable.” 

“[People are] working hard every day,” he added, “sacrificing for their family.”

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