Thursday, May 11, 2006

California and Poverty

The headline of the article is shocking: State has No. 3 poverty rate in U.S., study shows

The lede paragraph is a bit calmer: "California's high housing costs and large population of working poor drove the state nearly to the top of a new poverty ranking, a study released today shows."

Well, that's true. Housing costs are high out here, especially in the urban centers: San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego. Cheaper housing is out in the rural areas, dependent upon agriculture, tourism (think the Sierra), logging, and mining.

But wait: "Less-educated workers make less money in California than in other parts of the country and a larger number of low-education, low-wage workers live here, including many who are foreign-born."

Oh, my! Would that, could that include those who are here illegally?

You have to read to the middle of the article for this nugget: "For foreign-born Latinos in California, Reed's adjusted poverty rate is 27 percent, but for U.S.-born Latinos the rate is nearly halved, to 14 percent."

So, if you're Latino, the longer your family has lived in the U.S., the less likely you are to be poor. That could have something to do with the ability to read, write, and speak English fluently and increasing levels of education across generations (a trend that happened in my own family, BTW).

I love this statement: "Other studies have put the cost of living in California much higher than Reed's poverty-line adjustment -- up to $80,000 for a family of four in one study."

Wow! That means that when I was a stay-at-home Mom and six of us were living on Hubs salary, we were living below the poverty level! How come we never qualified for any government assistance? We did ask for, and receive, discounts on school tuition and Scout camp fees, which were much appreciated. We "paid" those organizations back by volunteering and working fundraisers and other events.

At the end of the article:

"Reed found one factor cutting into California's poverty rate is an increased number of working single mothers.

"The percentage of such mothers in the work force following changes in welfare policy increased from 69 percent to 80 percent in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That led to a decrease in poverty rates in single-mother families, though the rate is still high, at 41 percent."

In other words, if you're a mother, being married is a key to being above the poverty line. What a novel concept! I wonder if the Church knows about it? Quick, call the Dems--maybe they can use this as the foundation to rebuilding their party base! Encourage men and women to marry before they have children and cure poverty! What a concept!

As for California, if we increase the number of U.S. born Latinos and somehow decrease the number of foreign-born Latinos (by, I don't know, enforcing the border), the poverty level of Latinos overall will decline. One thing the boom should have taught us is that when labor is scarce, labor rates (salary and wages) go up. Programmers just out of college received ridiculous amounts of money for their unproven skills. Why wouldn't the same thing happen with the lower end, if the source dried up?

I know, I know. I'm making too much sense here...