By Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer

Homeless couple in San Francisco
Homeless couple in San Francisco-2008. Photo by Franco Folini-flickr.

Although California ranks eighth among global economies, the state also holds the dubious distinction of having the highest poverty rate in the United States. Analysts say the exorbitant housing costs and shortages are the cause. Others observe that recent wildfires that have destroyed thousands of homes are contributing to the problem.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, nearly 15 percent of Californians couldn’t pay for their basic needs in 2016. Researchers say that this poverty measure, however, excludes housing costs and critical family expenses.

The institute’s recent examination of poverty in California notes that Latinos and less educated residents have dramatically higher poverty rates than do whites. As well, most poor families have at least one working adult; more than half of those families report one adult working full-time and another quarter of respondents say at least one adult was working part-time.

The researchers also observe that the poverty rate in California would be much higher, particularly in the north part of the state and inland, if there was no social safety net such as food stamps, cash assistance for families with children, tax credits for low-wage earners, federal housing subsidies and free or low-cost school meals.

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