Struggling to Stay Afloat: The Real Cost Measure in California

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Researchers at the United Ways of California developed a “Real Cost Measure” to more effectively gauge the number of families living in poverty and provide recommendations for improving economic mobility for California residents. The Real Cost Measure accounts for household budgets, including estimated costs of basic needs for different households in different areas, and neighborhood-level demographics based on Census data. The researchers found that over 3.8 million families cannot afford the basic cost of living and of those families, a disproportionate number are people of color. The study also showed that 60 percent of California households with children under six fall below the Real Cost Measure, and those with lower levels of education are significantly more likely to have incomes below the measure.


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