Poverty by Age Group
Within age groups, poverty rates in Los Angeles County were highest among children, who are defined as all persons under 18 years. Childhood poverty rate was higher than adult and senior rates by at least 10% in almost every year. However, the County has made progress in childhood poverty rate since 2013 as evident in the approximately 4% decline from 2013 to 2016.
How poverty is understated in Los Angeles County:
Notwithstanding the progress, the poverty rates reported by the Census Bureau underestimate poverty in all age groups within Los Angeles County. This is because the Census Bureau disregards geographic location and only uses a set of income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty (U.S. Census Bureau, August 2017). Considering that cost of living varies by one’s location, poverty in Los Angeles County is undeniably more severe than what the Census Bureau reports.
In fact, the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford University Center on Poverty and Inequality have confirmed that poverty rates in places like Los Angeles County are higher when factors such as geographic location are considered. The two institutes jointly improved on the Census Bureau’s official poverty measure (OPM) and developed the California Poverty Measure (CPM) in which “incorporates the changes in costs and standards of living since the official poverty measure was devised in the early 1960s—and accounts for geographic differences in the cost of living across the state” (Public Policy Institute of California, October 2013). In 2011, the CPM calculated 26.9% of Los Angeles County residents living in poverty in comparison to 19.2% by the OPM (Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, October 2013). Propel L.A. found that the percentage difference is equivalent to over 835,000 more residents living in poverty than what the Census reported.
Finally, both the CPM and OPM establish that poverty in California is highest among children. The CPM rate for children in California is also higher than the OPM rate. Therefore, we can conclude that childhood poverty in Los Angeles County is worse than what the official poverty rates reflect.