With all the recent hoopla about California’s record-low unemployment rate and the heady prospect of its becoming No. 5 in global economic rankings, it is easy to lose sight of another salient fact: It is the nation’s most poverty-stricken state.
So says the U.S. Census Bureau in its “supplemental measure” of poverty, which is more accurate than the traditional measure because it takes into account not only income, but living costs.
By that measure, just over 20 percent of Californians are living in poverty. The Public Policy Institute of California has devised its own measure, similar to the Census Bureau’s, that not only validates the 20 percent figure, but tells us that another 20 percent of Californians are in “near-poverty,” which means they struggle to pay for food, shelter and other necessities of life.
Another indicator of California’s impoverishment is that more than a third of its 39 million residents are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state-federal program of medical care for the poor. And that doesn’t count a few million more who cannot legally obtain Medi-Cal coverage because they are undocumented immigrants.
Finally, 60 percent of California’s 6 million K-12 students are either “English-learners” or come from…