Above Poverty

Above Poverty

What does this indicator measure?

This indicator measures the percentage of people earning more than 200% of the federal poverty level. 200% is often used to measure poverty in California due to high costs of living. This variable indicates places where households earn enough to meet basic needs.

The connection to health

Every household should be able to afford the necessities of a healthy life—medical care, healthy food, quality housing, education, and other basics. Research indicates that economic opportunity is one the most powerful predictors of good health, and that impacts on health are especially pronounced for people in or near poverty. When families are in poverty, they often do not have reliable access to the goods and services that are necessary for a healthy life.1 They may also face trauma and chronic stressors such as violence and insecure housing, employment, and food. These stressors have strong and long-term effects on both mental and physical health, and can even influence the health of one’s children and grandchildren health.12, 3, 4, 5, Low-wage workers are also more likely to face unemployment and perceived job insecurity, which are associated with depression, anxiety, and overall poor health.6, 7 When families face economic challenges, adults often work long hours and/or multiple jobs, making it more difficult to engage with their communities, cook healthy meals, spend time with family and friends, go to medical appointments, and participate in physical activity and other healthy activities.8, 9, 10 Finally, experiencing poverty makes it more difficult to afford to live in places with healthy community conditions like parks, good schools, employment, clean air, and safe streets.1, 11

Where to start?

Helping households stay out of poverty requires a range of policy initiatives designed to ensure that residents are economically secure. Despite the economic success of this state, approximately nine million families and two million children live in poverty in California.16 While the problem is solvable, its scale and intractability mean it will take action on multiple fronts to address. In the short term, local governments can Raise Wages and Benefits to help low-wage workers stay out of, or exit, poverty. Predatory lending, medical debt, and other factors also make it increasingly difficult for many working-class families to keep what they earn and build wealth. The single largest predictor of wealth in the United States is the wealth of one’s parents, meaning that both wealth and poverty are often replicated across generations, and carry forward both past and current inequities.22 In fact, the median white family currently has 13 times more wealth than a median Black family and 10 times more than the median Latino family, and this gap is growing.23 Local governments can help families keep what they earn and Build Wealth to reduce this gap and address poverty. In the longer term, governments should Build Workforce Development and Pathways and Develop Community Economic Capacity to increase the number, quality, and accessibility of jobs to local residents. Governments should also seek to Improve Transportation Access to Economic Opportunity for those in poverty.