[This is the first post in a new blog series that will explore racial disparities in California].
In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the U.S. has seen a wave of civil protests in over 2,000 cities calling for the dismantling of systemic racism and policing practices. Not since the Civil Rights movement has the U.S. seen such broad-based calls for racial justice.
The disruption and hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic, where at least 36 million people have claimed unemployment nationally since March 2020, is the backdrop for this movement, and may have contributed to the unrest. Many of the protesters have been people of color disconnected from the labor market and from educational opportunities as they seek a better life for themselves, free of discrimination.
There is no doubt that California is facing a harsh reality when it comes to homelessness – from the seemingly more visible presence of unsheltered individuals in urban cores and on city sidewalks – to the less obvious scenarios, such as a single mother of two spending a night sleeping in the family car or a hidden encampment. What we do know is that we are decades deep into this crisis, and we still lack an effective statewide and national strategy to bring an end homelessness.
According to the most recent publicly available data on homelessness by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), California has the largest homeless population in the country with approximately 130,000 people living in shelters or on the street. That comprises 24% of the country’s homeless population, easily the highest in the nation. With nearly 53,000 reported homeless individuals, Los Angeles County alone contains 10% of the national homeless population. What is poorly understood, however, is how homelessness numbers are calculated and why it is important to regard them as estimates when attempting to address intervention strategies on homelessness and affordable housing, in general.
Earlier this summer, United Ways of California released Struggling to Stay Afloat: The Real Cost Measure in California 2019, a new financial stability report that focuses on the financial challenges of working families. Unlike the official poverty measure, which primarily accounts for the cost of food adjusted for inflation, the Real Cost Measure incorporates the costs of housing, food, health care, child care, transportation and other basic needs for a more accurate measure of self-sufficiency.
Today, we are glad to release new legislative profiles to accompany the release of the study. These profiles illustrate the percentage of households below the Real Cost Measure by neighborhood cluster. Neighborhood clusters, or public use microdata areas as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, are contiguously consolidated neighborhoods with at least 100,000 people, and are more statistically accurate than other geographic boundaries such as zip codes or census tracts.
Over the past two weeks, two significant wildfires have devastated in Northern and Southern California. The Camp Fire in Northern California, has burned over 142,000 acres, and destroyed the community of Paradise. As of this writing, over 600 people remain unaccounted for. The Woolsey and Hill Fires in Southern California has burned nearly 103,000 acres combined, and is affecting communities in both Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.
In response to the fires, several California United Ways have established disaster relief funds to help those impacted, particularly low-income families and children. We ask you to please spread the word on both of these efforts, and give today.
Camp Fire Fund in Butte County by United Way of Northern California
Last month, we had the opportunity to explore some of the latest American Community Survey data on median household earnings, and how they have changed over time both nationally and throughout California. (Earnings have largely remained constant for decades among most working families, but there are huge disparities among CA neighborhoods). In this blog post, we are using the same data source to explore the intersection between educational attainment and median personal earnings. This is a particularly important subject as educational attainment is universally acknowledged as a primary factor in eliminating generational poverty, and in human development.
Last Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau released new supplemental demographic data on health, education, and income well-being on American FactFinder. The annual October release is significant as this new data allows us the ability to dig deeper to see how people are faring in their own local neighborhoods.
One of the critical pieces of data we look at here at United Ways of California is median household earnings, which illustrates the economic potential of families throughout the state. It is a key component of our Real Cost Measure report, which determines what it takes a given household to make ends meet in California.
While it is too early to estimate the long-term impact of the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), Latino households in California have the most to lose than any demographic group nationally.
On Wednesday, August 30th, Pete Manzo from United Ways of California discussed affordable housing, SB3, a bill to propose state bond funding for affordable housing for approval by voters in the November 2018 election, and The Real Cost Measure, our financial stability report for California, on "AirTalk", hosted by Larry Mantle on KPCC in Pasadena. Mr. Manzo and David Wolfe from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association discussed the merrits of SB 3 and its potential implications for housing in California. Click here to listen to the full interview.
The American Health Care Act passed today by the U.S. House of Representatives will have a devastating impact on California’s children and families. This new version of the bill is significantly worse than the previous version, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated would result in over 24 million Americans losing health insurance. Congress rushed this through before getting an independent analysis from CBO, which means that our nation’s leaders and their constituents have no idea how much worse it’s gotten and how many more people will lose coverage. At a minimum, we know that the bill guts Medicaid, cutting more than $800 billion over 10 years, and will cause at least 24 million more uninsured people within a decade. It will also expose everyone with private insurance, from their employer or purchased on their own, to discrimination for pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps on care.
In March 2017, Measure of America, a trusted partner of United Way, released their latest report on disconnected youth, those not enrolled in school or participating in the labor force between the ages of 16-24.
In Promising Gains, Persistent Gaps: Youth Disconnection in America, Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis find there were approximately 609,000 disconnected youth in California in 2015, easily the highest rate in the nation. However, California also experienced a decrease of disconnected youth from 2010-15 by 18%, indicating improved well-being for that vulnerable population since the Great Recession. While that is certainly good news, it is prudent to consider how disconnected youth are spatially dispersed throughout California and the opportunities we have to better serve them.
Last month, the world lost one of its greatest champions in human development and global health, Hans Rosling. Among other things, Mr. Rosling became internationally famous for visualizing complicated data and making it understandable, interactive and engaging for all audiences (even if it meant proving we are often no smarter than a chimpanzee). He taught us that despite all of the world’s ongoing challenges, we have made great social progress over the past several decades. Take for instance that:
What would happen to income levels in Santa Barbara County if everyone completed their high school diploma/GED? Thanks to the new Common Good Forecaster developed by United Way and Measure of America, we now have the ability to find out — not only in Santa Barbara, but across California and the entire country.
The following blog post is by Danielle Kilchenstein and Judy Darnell from United Ways of California.
Health coverage is a critical piece of the puzzle to ensure overall health for any person, but perhaps most importantly for our children to ensure they’re on a path to success. Today, United Ways across California are celebrating good news about children’s health. The number of uninsured children dropped from 7% (over 700,000) to 3% (still over 300,000) between 2013 and 2015. While still too many children cannot access regular, preventive care, the trend shows we are definitely on the right path.
The most significant finding in Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015 is that real median household income increased 5.2% from 2014. That is the first genuine increase households have experienced since 2007, just before the Great Recession.
California United Ways are working together to help kids enter school ready to learn, from preschool through high school, and graduate high school ready for college and career. As we kick off a new school year, please join us in expanding educational opportunity for California's low-income students. To donate, please visit http://igfn.us/vfu/STUDENTS.
With the 2016 General Election just a few weeks away, we decided to look into some historical voter participation rates to determine potential turnout in November and discuss some of the steps we can take to encourage voter participation.
In a powerful infographic recently released by the New York Times, 88 million eligible voters in the United States did not vote in the 2012 General Election. Among the largest demographic of those who did not vote are young people between the ages of 18-24. Of those, only 38% voted according to recent data published by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Since the 1972 General Election, voter turnout in the U.S. and California has been gradually declining (and more so in primary elections). As the chart below illustrates, 66% of eligible voters in California voted in the 1972 General Election compared to just 48% in 2012. Moreover, The Center for the Study of the American Electorate projects that up to 95 million eligible voters may not vote in this year’s election.
One potential detriment to voter participation is the number of ballot measures Californians regularly have to consider. As one of the few states in the Union that allows voters the ability to place initiatives and referendums on ballots by its state Constitution, California voters will be asked to consider 18 initiatives this November in addition to vetting various local, state and national elected offices. (The record is 48 ballot initiatives in 1914). Doing so requires voters to conduct their own research on ballot measures which can be a barrier for some citizens who may lack literacy skills, a reliable Internet connection and more.
What We Can Do to Encourage Voter Participation
There are a number of changes we can make that would increase voter turnout, such as providing longer early voting periods, instituting vote by mail for all registered voters (as is the case in Oregon), allowing voting on weekends, same-day registration and more ideally, voting by smartphone. (A recent article from the Los Angeles Times cites CA Senate Bill 450 which seeks to expand absentee ballots and offer same-day voter registration through temporary “vote centers.”)
The Pew Research Center reports that nearly two-thirds of adults in the U.S. own a smartphone. If we can make purchases on our phone, board a plane, and send messages to the entire world instantly, we can certainly make voting more accessible and secure with current technologies. Perhaps more importantly, it would significantly increase voter turnout and negate inefficiencies such as waiting in line at voting precincts, and requiring employers from providing employees time off to vote on Election Day. Naturally, adopting any of these changes would require legislative change and would be subject to partisan debate.
Closer to home, one way to encourage voter participation is to organize meetups with friends and neighbors to discuss proposed ballot initiatives. While some of them may have already made up their minds on certain initiatives (or have predisposed inclinations), discussing the pros and cons of issues may bring clarity to understanding their respective short and long-term impacts. It will also be an opportunity to get to know others in your neighborhood better!
If you work or volunteer at a charitable organization, you can encourage their leaders to sign up with the “Vote with Your Mission/Nonprofit VOTE” campaign supported by the California Association of Nonprofits and United Way. The campaign aims to encourage those working and volunteering at a nonprofit to register vote, as well as those who benefit from their programs and services. It is a great way to encourage civic participation among your own colleagues.
The hardest task of course is encouraging eligible voters between 18 and 24 to vote. The nonpartisan organization Rock the Vote has demonstrated strong success in connecting eligible youth to registration drives and local voting precincts. However, by reaching out to young, eligible voters via social media, we can also do our part. Some research suggests encouraging young people to vote through social networks is far more likely to be effective than television advertisements and phone calls. Thus, posting notices on your own social network about registration deadlines and information on voting precincts before election day can go a long way in incentivizing youth to vote.
With thousands of families being displaced and impacted by the Blue Cut Fire in San Bernardino County, Inland Empire United Way has launched a relief fund to help families with short and long-term needs.
If you would like to support relief efforts, please text “RELIEF” to 40403 or visit their donation page. GIVE. ADVOCATE. VOLUNTEER.
On April 4, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill (SB 3) that will raise California's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. Together, with the passage of a similar law in New York State and living wage campaigns throughout the nation, California’s action has brought the idea of a $15 minimum wage to the forefront of the national discussion on poverty.
Los Angeles, CA—Below is a statement from Peter Manzo, President and CEO, on behalf of United Ways of California (UWCA), regarding the Governor’s proposed budget release:
United Ways of California applauds the Governor for once again making significant investments in K-12 education. With an increase of $3,600 per pupil in K-12 funding over last year, and a continued commitment to the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant program, California will continue to move toward an improved education system. The Governor’s proposal also makes a very welcome increased investment in Transitional Kindergarten, a vital bridge to helping children enter K-12 schools ready to learn. Click here to read the full press release.
About 830 million people in the world are working poor—living on less than $2 a day—and more than 1.5 billion are in vulnerable employment, usually lacking decent working conditions and adequate voice and social security. - 2015 Human Development Report
Earlier this morning, the United Nations Human Development Programme released its global 2015 Human Development Report which among other things, measures well being in health education and income, the core areas of United Way’s community impact work.
The report reveals some very encouraging news, especially when we take a look at the historical data. Between 1990 and 2015:
Arrowhead United Way established a relief fund today to support the needs of those affected by the tragedy in San Bernardino. If you would like to support their cause, please text "SBUNITED" to 71777 or visit their donation page. A disaster distress hotline is also available at 800.985.5990. GIVE. ADVOCATE. VOLUNTEER.
Los Angeles, — California. Today, United Ways of California joined Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and other California leaders to announce the launch of CalEITC4me, a statewide campaign involving community, faith, civic, labor and business leaders to ensure the first-ever California Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) winds up in the hands of those who worked hard to earn it. Click here to read more.
Struggling to Get By introduces the Real Cost Measure, a new tool that provides a more realistic picture of poverty than the Federal Poverty Line. The Real Cost Measure creates “basic needs” budgets for households, using actual costs for food, housing, transportation, health care, childcare, and taxes throughout California.
Among the questions Struggling to Get By seeks to answer are: What is the true rate of financially challenged households? How many are led by working adults? What do we know about these households? What do their family configurations look like? What regions and communities struggle more than others? What do income challenges look like across race, ethnicity and gender boundaries and more.
This morning, Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council, released Geographies of Opportunity, a new human development report focusing on U.S. Congressional Districts (114th Congress). This is an important report as it measures well-being in health, education and income nationally which perfectly correlates with United Way's community impact work. Some of the conclusions from the report include:
In a new commentary, Michael Alexander (United Way of Fresno County) and Rosemary Caso (United Way of Tulare County) talk about the latest threat to the federal Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the impact it can have on California's low-income families. Click here to read the piece.
On December 9, Measure of America released A Portrait of California, 2014-15, California's newest Human Development Report. The report is significant for several reasons. First, human development measures well-being in health, education and income—what most of us would agree are the building blocks of a decent life.
For years, economists such as Joseph Stiglitz have argued that measures such as gross domestic product, do not project an accurate pulse of how ordinary Americans are doing. The American Human Development index measures well-being adquately because it uses common indicators we are familiar with such as life expectancy at birth, educational attainment and median personal earnings, and scales them in a simple 0-10 index that is easy to understand and talk about.
On October 18, the California State Controller’s Office will launch its first annual “Manage Your Money Week.” The event has several goals including: 1) promoting the importance of helping all Californians make good financial decisions; 2) connecting consumers to financial management resources in their own local communities and; 3) providing a framework for state, regional and local financial education groups to collaborate on highlighting their respective programs and services.
In an op-ed in this morning's Stanford Social Innovation Review, United Ways of California's President/CEO, Pete Manzo, talks about the opportunities 2-1-1s and other information and referral providers have in "making their resource data and their data about users’ needs usable by the whole wide world." In doing so, they can expand their social impact and further their sustainability. Click here to read the full post.
On May 20, Measure of America, founders of the American Human Development Index, released “A Portrait of Sonoma County,” which measures well being throughout Sonoma County, CA. Some of its primary findings include:
Sonoma County residents have an average life expectancy of 81.0—two years longer than the national average of 79.0 but just under California’s life expectancy of 81.2.
Variation in educational outcomes by census tract in Sonoma County is significant and meaningful. The range in the percentage of adult residents with less than a high school diploma is huge, going from a low of 0.4% in North Oakmont/Hood Mountain to a high of 46.1% in Roseland Creek.
Men in Sonoma County earn about $8,500 more than women. This wage gap is similar to the gap between men and women at the state level, although it is around $1,000 smaller than at the national level.
Earlier this month, the Executive Office of the President and the U.S. Treasury Department released a proposal to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by $60 billion. This is significant as EITC is the largest public anti-poverty program for workers not receiving Social Security benefits.
If the proposal goes through, over 7.7 million people will receive a larger EITC benefit and 5.8 million would become newly eligible. The Washington Post reports “workers would get 15.3 cents back on every dollar they earn up to $6,570, for a maximum of $1,005. Then the tax credit is frozen until the worker earns $11,500.” Once a worker reaches $18,070 in annual income, the tax credit will automatically phase out.
Under the leadership of its Board of Directors, 2-1-1 California is seeking a new Director to conduct the day-to-day management of the fiscal, contractual, personnel and other activities related to 2-1-1 California. Responsibilities include developing a strategy for building and strengthening relationships with state and local public agencies and officials, foundations and other sources of support, integrate 2-1-1 service into official emergency and disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts, and more. To learn more about this position, visit our posting on Idealist.org.
Three months ago, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released its latest math and reading results from “The Nation’s Report Card,” an assessment typically conducted every two years that measures how well students perform in core subject areas. It is arguably the best tool we have to measure how K-12 students are performing academically across states.
The results for California students in both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math are encouraging. As illustrated in the charts below, California students have improved 11 points, on average, in 4th grade reading since 1998, and 16 points, on average, in 8th grade math since 2000.
February 11 is national 2-1-1 Day, in recognition of the free, user-friendly phone and online system that serves 90% of America's population, and connects some 16 million people a year to critical resources, information and services.
On February 6, UWCA President/CEO Pete Manzo testified before the California Assembly Banking and Finance Committee in San Francisco. We thought you'd like to read his testimony about the Bank On program and the needs of unbanked and underbanked families.
California’s finances are more solid than they have been for several years, thanks in no small part to Governor Brown’s leadership. While the Governor’s proposed budget increases investment in K-12 education, similar investments in health programs and initiatives that help families achieve financial self-sufficiency are needed to strengthen opportunities for low-income families, which are essential to California’s overall competitiveness and well being. Click here to read our full press release.
On November 8, typhoon Haiyan, the second worst Philippine typhoon on record, hit landfall leading to over 4,000 fatalities and thousands more to be homeless, scattered and hungry. To address the impact of the storm, United Way Worldwide’s Disaster Rebuilding Fund is helping to support long-term rebuilding and recovery efforts. Click here to learn more about United Way Worldwide’s Fund and make a donation today.
Due to the non-renewal of increased federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds, over 4,000,000 families will see reduced funds coming from CalFresh, California’s nutrition program for low-income families. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that a family of four is set to lose $36 per month, leading to the possibility of skipped meals and nutrition support that is essential for a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.