The number of non-white children in poverty is a 'moral and economic crisis' for California

A new census report made headlines Tuesday touting a 5 percent rise in median income in the US. But that same report contains startling data about children in poverty in America.

In California,  children make up less than one-quarter of the state's population, but they account for nearly one-third of those living below the poverty line. There were, in total,  1.9 million poor children living in the Golden State in 2015 — many of them children of color 

Statewide, black and Latino children are nearly three times as likely as white children to live in poverty. In Los Angeles, almost 80 percent of the children in poverty are Latino.

To get a better understanding about the state of child poverty,  Take Two’s Deepa Fernandes spoke with Alex Johnson, Executive Director of Children's Defense Fund California.


What does the Census data tell us about child poverty?

We are in the midst of a moral and economic crisis with the number of children of color who continue to be disproportionately poor. There are about 1.3 million Latino children living in California who are poor and about 150,000 or so black children who are poor in California. That represents really a crisis for us as a state and as a nation in terms of the number of children of color who persist in poverty.

Where do poor children live in Los Angeles?

It’s poverty all across the county and across the city. You have about 30 percent of black children who are poor in the county. In the city, about 38 percent who are poor. Of Latino children, the number is the same in the city and about 30 percent again in L.A. County. They’re spread all across the county. A lot of the young folks that we have engaged with the Children’s Defense Fund — because of their circumstances, because of poverty, are having to move all over so they are transitioning across the county from cities, from couches, from garages — so there’s no stability in housing. And that in itself is a significant issue as it relates to education. It relates to a child’s ability to thrive.

Are better paying job for parents the solution?

If a parent has a good paying job, that's obviously helpful and so the fight for a minimum wage of $15 an hour was a part of that equation to help parents help themselves and their families get back on the road to success but we have to look at where poverty stems from. So, from the systemic and structural disadvantages, the oppression, the structural racism — let’s just call is out — that is ensconce within the notion of what poverty means. So you can’t just say, ‘Oh they should just go get a job’. We have to peel back the layers and look at how these families are actually getting into poverty. Poverty is cyclical and you have generational poverty that persisted particularly among communities of color because of those very issues. Until we address that, along with legislative changes and along with pushing for more economic opportunities, we won’t see a really true regression in these numbers of poverty.

To hear the full interview, click the blue arrow above.