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Report: Nearly A Quarter Of Valley & Sierra Children Live In Poverty

Public Policy Institute of California

A new analysis from the Public Policy Institute of California maps child poverty across California, and estimates Valley children would be much worse off without social safety net programs.


About one in four children under five years old in the Central Valley and Sierra live in poverty, according to the analysis. That’s about on par with the state as a whole. In fact, many areas with the highest child poverty are actually found along the coast. Author and senior research fellow Caroline Danielson says that’s because salaries here may be lower, but so is the cost of living.

"In some areas, employment opportunities are just not that robust," Danielson says. "In other areas, the cost of living in some coastal areas are so high, that they are priced out."


She says social safety net programs like food stamps, housing subsidies, and CalWorks have helped control child poverty rates in the Valley.


"We estimate statewide that for young children, the poverty rate would be 40 percent, not 25 percent, if we didn’t have social safety net programs to help families," she says. "And in the Central Valley and Sierra, we estimate that the poverty rate would be 48 percent, not 24 percent--so it would double."


Child poverty rates vary widely across the Valley, but the highest and lowest rates in the state are found in Los Angeles County.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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