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Reports & Research

March 8, 2012


One Million California Kids Live In High Poverty Areas

One in Eight U.S. Children from High-Poverty Communities Lives in California

More than one million California children live in high-poverty areas, according to the new KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot released on February 23 by The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Children Now. That is more than the number of children in high-poverty areas in Arizona, New York and Massachusetts combined. Only Texas has more children living in high-poverty communities. Nationally, nearly 8 million (11%) children live in high-poverty areas, where at least 30 percent of residents live below the federal poverty level ($22,000 a year for a family of four).

Closer examination of localized data demonstrates the level of need across the state varies widely, with some areas seeing a much higher percentage of children living in high-poverty communities than others. For example, roughly one in four children residing in Kern (27%) and Merced (25%) counties, and almost one in three children residing in Long Beach (30%), live in high-poverty areas. Although the state average is 11 percent, the city of Fresno has nearly four times (43%) as many children living in disadvantaged, high-need neighborhoods.

“The Data Snapshot highlights the huge number of California children living in communities that don't have the same level of access to high-quality learning opportunities and comprehensive, continuous and affordable health care as children in other areas of the same cities or counties,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, the KIDS COUNT grantee for California. “California's budget crisis has hit these children the hardest. Through years of cuts, the state has eroded the public education and health systems on which these children rely. Investments in children make good fiscal sense and should be the last place our state's policymakers look to cut.”

Regardless of family income, children living in areas of concentrated poverty face greater barriers to success than children living in other communities. They are more likely to have significant health challenges and are at greater risk of developing learning disabilities and having social and behavioral issues. Children in high-poverty areas are also more susceptible to dropping out of school, participating in gang violence and succumbing to substance abuse.

The following table highlights some places that have a high percentage of children living in areas of concentrated poverty.

LOCALITY                                 NUMBER                  PERCENTAGE

United States                            7,879,000                    11%

California                                 1,049,000                    11%

COUNTY                                  NUMBER                  PERCENTAGE

Del Norte County, California    1,918                           30.2%

Kern County, California            67,664                         27.1%

Merced County, California        20,405                         25.3%

CITY                                       NUMBER                  PERCENTAGE

Fresno, CA                              64,536                         43.4%

Long Beach, CA                      38,418                         31.3%

Los Angeles, CA                     224,960                       25.0%

Oakland, CA                           18,892                         21.8%

Sacramento, CA                      26,583                         23.0%

San Diego, CA                        37,477                         13.5%

The KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot on High-Poverty Communities is available for free download online at

Related California county and neighborhood data are available here.

Source:  Children Now