California Poverty

By Brenda Gazzar, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 09/16/15 – 9:15 PM PDT |

Local poverty rates remain stubbornly high despite lower unemployment, census figures show.

More than one in five people were living in poverty in San Bernardino County last year while the poverty rate in Los Angeles County didn’t lag far behind, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

San Bernardino County’s poverty rate was estimated to be 20.6 percent in 2014, up from 19.1 percent the previous year and up from 18 percent in 2010, according to the data released Wednesday night. In Los Angeles County, 18.7 percent of residents were estimated to live in poverty in 2014, roughly the same as the previous year and up from 17.5 percent in 2010. Both counties surpassed California’s statewide official poverty rate of 16.4 percent in 2014.

While inflation-adjusted median household incomes have been declining and poverty rates are up in much of Southern California, the flip side is that unemployment rates are falling and educational attainment rates are seeing some improvement, said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

“We have a mixed bag of results with the 2014 data,” Kleinhenz said. “Part of the reason for that is some of the results are still very much affected by the recession. … Technically, it ended in 2009 at the national level, but I think it lingered here longer. We began to go down the road to recovery later here in Southern California than other parts of the U.S. did.”

The inflation-adjusted median household income in Los Angeles County was estimated to be $55,746 in 2014, which was about the same as last year but down from $57,225 in 2010. In San Bernardino County, the median household income was estimated to be $52,041 last year, slightly down from the 2013 figure of $52,940 and significantly down from $57,096 in 2010. Both counties fell below the statewide median household income of $61,993 in 2014.

Nationally, inflation-adjusted household incomes have fallen “fairly consistently” dating back to 1999 and the figures in L.A. and San Bernardino County are a part of this long-term trend, Kleinhenz said.

“Even during the pre-recession area, wage increases tended to barely keep up with inflation if at all,” Kleinhenz said, noting that middle-wage and low-wage jobs tended to lose ground against inflation. Higher wage jobs, which often involve skills, education and technical training, “was the only area that kept up with or managed to beat inflation over the last 10 years or so.”

But Kleinhenz said it was likely that there would be “material improvement” in 2015 and 2016 as the fundamentals of the economy have improved “quite substantially” in 2015.

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