Low-Income Workers Face These Challenges

♦ Lack of job skills

♦ Poor access to job-training programs that support improved earning potential

♦ Language, social and/or personal financial skill deficits/barriers

♦ Bay Area’s high cost of living, with expensive transportation, food, housing and health care

♦ Low minimum-wage levels

Poverty In California

A greater share of people live in poverty in California than in any other state, according to a measure used by the U.S. Census Bureau that takes into account the cost of living and government assistance programs.

About 20 percent of Californians lived below the Census’ “supplemental” poverty measure from 2014 to 2016. The supplemental poverty measure factors in the government programs for low-income families and individuals, as well as housing costs, which are not included in the official poverty measure.

The median household income nationally was $59,039 in 2016, up 3.2 percent from the 2015 median of $57,230.

“I think the fact that California’s poverty rate essentially held steady might mean that rising housing costs are really limiting the extent to which gains in the job market can lift people out of poverty,” said Alissa Anderson, senior policy analyst with the California Budget and Policy Center.

Source: The California Report, KQED News, 2017


Though the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, global income inequality is at an all-time high as of 2015, and many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet.

Despite an economy that is seemingly booming, 29% of San Francisco households— more than 657,000 families—were still living below the Self-Sufficiency Standard as of 2012. The Self-Sufficiency Standard measures the actual cost of living for different households of working age in each county, including housing, food, healthcare, taxes and child care.

Five demographic groups are most likely to live below self-sufficiency in the Bay Area:

♦ Households with young children

♦ Households headed by an immigrant

♦ Households headed by a single mother

♦ Households headed by a man of color

♦ Households headed by a senior citizen

Through this analysis, three key findings emerged to help explain the more than 657,000 Bay Area households struggling despite the post-recession recovery:

♦ Wages of low-income workers are not keeping up with the rising cost of living.

♦ The support provided by public programs is inadequate.

♦ Low-income households are disproportionately affected by a variety of barriers that hinder their ability to reach self-sufficiency

Source:  United Way of the Bay Area


Poverty in California

  • Below Poverty
  • At and Above Poverty

Cities with Highest Poverty Rate (%)

  • % Below Poverty

East Bay Poorest Cities (Median Income x $1,000)