United Way report finds more than 1 in 3 households struggle to meet basic needs

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Arrowhead United Way partnered with United Ways of California on the statewide release of Struggling to Stay Afloat: The Real Cost Measure in California 2019, a new report on the financial challenges facing working families.

“The Real Cost Measure determines what a decent standard of living really costs in California. We find that over 1 in 3 households in California struggle to meet basic living costs, which is roughly three times as many as federal poverty statistics would indicate. The Real Cost Measure provides us the ability to better understand the challenges facing struggling households in our community, and to engage local community partners, civic leaders, the business sector and our elected officials in addressing their everyday hardships” said Doug Rowand, President & CEO of Arrowhead United Way.

Some of the key findings from Struggling to Stay Afloat: The Real Cost Measure in California 2019 include:

• More than one in three California households—over 3.8 million families —do not earn sufficient income to meet basic needs. Of these families, 9 in 10 households have at least one working adult.

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• 6 in 10 Young Children Live in Struggling Households.

• Housing Burden: Nearly 4 in 10 households in California pay more than 30% of their income on housing. Households living below the Federal Poverty Level can spend up to a staggering 76% of their income on housing.

• Households of all Ethnicities Struggle, but Rate is Higher for Latino and African Americans.

• Single Mothers: Over 7 in 10 households led by single mothers in California (74%) fall below the Real Cost Measure.

“We are troubled to see that the rate of households living with incomes below the Real Cost Measure is increasing, even while the economy is growing and official unemployment low,” Rowand continued. “Households living below the Real Cost Measure are overwhelmingly working families. They are doing their part, but as our data make clear, hard work alone is not enough to get ahead. We hope our results will be useful to community, business, civic, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders working to help struggling families move up.”

Unlike the official federal poverty level, which does not accurately account for local costs of living, the Real Cost Measure factors the costs of housing, food, health care, child care, transportation and other basic needs to determine what it truly costs to live in every county in California. The results of this extensive study are presented in a data-rich website that examines each of California’s 58 counties at the neighborhood level, with county profiles and interactive maps. http://www.unitedwaysca.org/realcost.

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