The Cost of Being Californian: A Look at the Economic Health of California Families

Drawing on the 2018 Self-Sufficiency Standard for California, The Cost of Being Californian: A Look at the Economic Health of California Families details the precarious economic conditions faced by many families in California, where more than one third of all households cannot independently cover the costs of their most basic needs.

For more than a decade, in partnership with the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington, the Insight Center has provided the Self-Sufficiency Standard for California to gain a realistic and comprehensive understanding of the economic security of Californians. 

An alternative measure to the Federal Poverty Line, the Self-Sufficiency Standard uses a “bare bones” budget to estimate the minimum income needed for more than 700 different family types to meet the essential costs of living across California’s 58 counties. 

While California has a reputation as a progressive policy leader, the 2018 data reveals the alarming extent to which low, middle, even higher-income households and, particularly, families of color face barriers to making ends meet within the largest economy in the United States. 

Click here to view and download the full report

Click here to explore the new 2018 Self-Sufficiency Standard, including family-specific data by county.

What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap

By William Darity Jr., Darrick Hamilton, Mark Paul, Alan Aja, Anne Price, Antonio Moore, and Caterina Chiopris

Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development


The racial wealth gap is large and shows no signs of closing. Recent data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (2014) shows that black households hold less than seven cents on the dollar compared to white households.1 The white household living near the poverty line typically has about $18,000 in wealth, while black households in similar economic straits typically have a median wealth near zero. This means, in turn, that many black families have a negative net worth. (Hamilton et al. 2015).

In this report, we address ten commonly held myths about the racial wealth gap in the United States. We contend that a number of ideas frequently touted as “solutions” will not make headway in reducing black-white wealth disparities. These conventional ideas include greater educational attainment, harder work, better financial decisions, and other changes in habits and practices on the part of blacks. While these steps are not necessarily undesirable, they are wholly inadequate to bridge the racial chasm in wealth.

These myths support a point of view that identifies dysfunctional black behaviors as the basic cause of persistent racial inequality, including the black-white wealth disparity, in the United States. We systematically demonstrate here that a narrative that places the onus of the racial wealth gap on black defectiveness is false in all of its permutations.

We challenge the conventional set of claims that are made about the racial wealth gap in the United States. We contend that the cause of the gap must be found in the structural characteristics of the American economy, heavily infused at every point with both an inheritance of racism and the ongoing authority of white supremacy.

Click here to read the full report.

 

 

Surviving American Racism

By Anne Price

Medium


A recent study led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, and the Census Bureau is intensifying the national discussion around income inequality. The findings once again confirm that economic inequality is largely driven by race, not class, and that class status is not permanent among Blacks. Moreover, the report indicates that racial income inequality is not tied to family background or individual effort.

Perhaps the most staggering conclusion of the study is that income inequality between Blacks and whites is fueled almost entirely by the racial discrimination Black boys and men face in their lives.

While these findings are significant, it’s important to emphasize that examining income inequality, particularly with a primary focus on only half the population, can only take us so far in understanding how social mobility is shaped, and how well-being is understood.

Click here to read more…

Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap

Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap provides a foundation for identifying and understanding root causes of the racial infant mortality gap, with the authors asserting it is necessary to isolate the fundamental reasons why black women in the United States are more likely to have preterm babies. The infant mortality rate is a key national indicator of population health. Despite technological advances in medicine and other health-related resources available to the average American, the infant mortality rate (IMR) in the United States is exceptionally high relative to other developed countries. For black infants, the numbers are devastatingly high. In 2013, the white IMR in the United States was five per 1000 live births —resembling economically advanced nations like New Zealand. In contrast, the black IMR was 11.2 per 1000 live births — a rate closer to that of lower income nations like Thailand, Romania, and Grenada. In fact, black women experience the highest infant mortality rates among any racial or ethnic group in the United States. The black IMR has been roughly twice that of the white IMR for over 35 years. In order to decrease the national infant mortality rate, the authors assert that factors that maintain these disparities must be addressed directly. There is a common perception that racial disparities in IMR are driven primarily by risky behaviors. However, the best available evidence does not support this assertion and indicates that systemic barriers to positive birth outcomes merit further investigation. Co-authored by Imari Z. Smith, Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, Salimah El-Amin and William Darity Jr. of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, in conjunction with the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, this research brief provides an overview of the social determinants that contribute to racial disparities in IMR. It also provides policy and research recommendations to improve outcomes for black babies and their mothers. Click here to view and download Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality GapFighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap, a new co-released report from the Insight Center and the Cook Center on Social Equity, provides a foundation for identifying and understanding root causes of the racial infant mortality gap.

The infant mortality rate (IMR) is a key national indicator of population health. Despite technological advances in medicine and other health-related resources available to the average American, the IMR in the United States is exceptionally high relative to other developed countries. For Black infants, the numbers are devastatingly high. In 2013, the white IMR in the United States was five per 1000 live births — resembling economically advanced nations like New Zealand. In contrast, the Black IMR was 11.2 per 1000 live births — a rate closer to that of lower income nations like Thailand, Romania, and Grenada.

Black women experience the highest infant mortality rates among any racial or ethnic group in the United States, and the Black IMR has been roughly twice that of the white IMR for over 35 years. There is a common perception that racial disparities in IMR are driven primarily by risky behaviors. However, the best available evidence does not support this assertion and indicates that systemic barriers to positive birth outcomes merit further investigation.

This report shows that it is time for policy makers to acknowledge this issue and develop strategies that effectively reduce Black infant mortality. The price for inaction is too high and has both social and economic implications for Black familiesFighting at Birth outlines suggested policies, programs, and strategies, catering specifically to the needs of Black women, in order to decrease the national Black IMR.

Click here to view and download Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap.

Utility Shutoffs Are Keeping Struggling Californians in the Dark

Medium

By: Anne Price


Energy is a basic need in a modern economy — some would even argue that uninterrupted energy service and electric power is a fundamental human right. Yet we are witnessing a growing energy crisis that has significant economic and health implications for struggling Californians — utility shutoffs.

In California, nearly 894,000 households live with income at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty level ($10,210 for a family of three) and spend about 25 percent of their income just on utilities. That is five times the 5 percent spent by higher-income households (185–200 percent of the poverty level) for electricity, heating, and cooling. Blacks, Latinos, and renters in multifamily buildings tend to face the highest energy burdens. Make no mistake, this is an economic and racial justice issue.

Home energy is an expense that fluctuates widely and can create a nearly insurmountable financial burden for those who are already juggling household expenses. As a result, last year, utility service was cut off in 868,000 California households — representing 2.5 million people, mostly children, and marking a staggering 60% increase from the 547,000 households that experienced utility shutoffs in 2010.

Changing climate conditions paired with energy rate hikes are wreaking further havoc on families with limited and fixed incomes. Heat waves are more intense in California and last longer. Last year was the hottest year to date on record, and January 2017 was the third hottest January ever recorded.

At the same time, electricity rates were raised three times in the past year, making energy rates for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customers an average of 21 percent higher than they were a year ago. And depending on PG&E’s potential culpability in the North Bay fires, consumers could face additional rate hikes to cover the costs of the damage. These kinds of rapidly successive price jumps are too much to handle for many families, and they further limit the impact of assistance programs that are already insufficient.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Photo: Michelle Hurwitz CC BY 2.0

Opinion: Income program must be paired with honest dialog on race

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

Universal Basic Income — a policy idea whereby people receive unconditional funds to help meet their most essential needs — is making waves in California.

The city of Stockton is set to launch a three-year pilot program. And Y Combinator, which provides seed funding for startups, is designing a pilot project for Oakland.

Click here to read Jhumpa’s full op-ed.

Universal Basic Income: Reclaiming Our Time for Racial Justice

Medium

By Anne Price, President


It’s been 40 years since we witnessed a Women’s Convention challenging our nation to take up equal rights of women in education, work, and in their personal lives, but this past weekend nearly 5,000 people, mostly women, gathered in Detroit as part of the inaugural Women’s Convention with the theme of Reclaiming Our Time.

Inspired by Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ highly esteemed mantra “reclaiming my time,” convention speakers echoed the need to restore human dignity across a wide range of social, political and economic issues.

The Women’s Convention lifted up the role that social movements led by women of color have played in shaping current proposals and actions to address discrimination, alienation, and exclusion. At the same time, the gathering recognized that the Women’s Movement has never amply included, let alone prioritized, Black women’s oppression and experiences in the struggle for gender justice.

We are in an important moment for women to exercise their moral agency to reclaim dignity and humanity in our economy and draw upon the legacy of historical movements. One of the most compelling ideas for reimagining our nation’s economic policies through this vision is Universal Basic Income (UBI), a progressive policy proposal that is gaining traction in the national conversation.

The basic tenet behind UBI is to give every American a stipend so that all children and families have the funds to meet their most essential needs — with their dignity and self-efficacy intact. The most common UBI proposal is to give people unconditional cash grants of about $12,000 per adult annually, with variances for true costs of living. This amount would help families create an income floor to meet basic needs like shelter, food, and transportation.

While UBI has gained mainstream attention as a possible solution to automation and job loss, when it comes to the full promise — and historical roots — of UBI, we have some reclaiming to do.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Organizers and volunteers from the National Welfare Rights Organization, marching to end hunger in 1968. Source: Anna Julia Cooper Center, Wake Forest University

Opinion: Environmental legislation leaves low-income behind

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

The passage of two environmental bills — AB 398 and AB 617 — has been a hot topic these past weeks. The legislation extends California’s cap and trade program and aims to improve air quality in polluted communities.

Backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the new statutes have drawn mixed reaction in the environmental justice community. As they stand, they also retain a regressive, flat-rate pricing system that places an unfair economic burden on low-income families, who will continue to pay a higher percentage of their earnings toward energy costs in comparison to higher-income households.

To read Jhumpa’s full piece, click here.

Fifty is the New Forgotten

Medium By Anne Price, President
From Charlottesville to Hurricane Harvey to removing DACA, this past month has repeatedly reinforced one of the primary drivers of Insight’s work — the absolute necessity of focusing on the needs of communities who are almost never included in our policymaking and are almost always left short changed. We must remain vigilant in our fight to ensure the voices and needs of people of color, immigrants, low-income communities and women are front and center.

This includes the often overlooked women of Generation X, now in their 50s.

Women are often the glue that holds families and communities together, too frequently sacrificing their own financial stability and emotional well-being for their family and friends. Increasingly, the economic security of today’s families rest on the shoulders of women. Two thirds of mothers play a significant role in the financial well-being of their families. Yet women are paid less, are crowded into certain occupations, and work in jobs that lack wealth escalators, consequentially hurting families and communities.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Photo Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

Living in a World They Didn’t Make: A Look at Millennial Women

Medium

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

The United States has a storied history of strong, fierce women fighting for equal rights and opportunity. Every mother hopes her daughter will fare better than she, facing fewer obstacles and less discrimination, and benefitting from a more equitable society.

As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day and commemorate the adoption of the 19th amendment, it’s important to acknowledge our progress toward equity. But it is equally important that we acknowledge that, for Millennial women — those born from the early 1980s through the early 2000s — the gains have faltered.

Coming of age during the Great Recession and the push for mass incarceration, these women grew up in troubling economic and social times.

To read Jhumpa’s full piece, click here.

Photo courtesy; Jovan J of Flickr Creative Commons