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California has to face the facts: We have the highest poverty in the nation

The state legislature is preparing to respond to troubling new U.S. Census Bureau data that shows California has the highest poverty rate of any state in the nation – at 23.5 percent, or over eight millions residents. 

Alarmingly, under the official measure, more than 1 in 5 kids in California live in poverty, and in eight counties – including Fresno and Merced – the child poverty rate tops 30 percent. 

On March 12th, Ann O’Leary, Vice President and Director of the Children & Families Program at Next Generation, was invited to give remarks on this new measure’s impact in California to the joint Assembly and Senate Human Services committees.  

As O’Leary commented, “We know that limited opportunities early in life ripple forward as a child grows into adulthood, and families languishing in poverty now reduce future economic productivity and social mobility later in life,” echoing the growing consensus for action on this issue. 

In a recent Next Generation report Prosperity Threatened: Perspectives on Childhood Poverty in California, we urge for new investments in education, better access to safety nets like food assistance programs, and better access to benefits like health insurance. It remains to be seen whether state policymakers will agree.

Read Ann’s full committee testimony here, or watch the video below:


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