Poverty: The State of the People

In addition to race, other factors have also played roles in the perpetuation of poverty. Data has shown that specific groups of people are disproportionately impacted by poverty. Race, age, level of education, work experience/industry - these are all factors that play into the economic gaps that continue to widen as assistance programs reach their expirations, housing costs continue to skyrocket, and general cost of living continues to rise.

California is home to about 39 million people, 15.7 million of whom are Hispanic/Latinx residents - this is about 40% of the total population of California (for those who didn’t want to do the math). 5.1 million Californians currently live in poverty according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure. Of these 5.1 million people living in poverty, 50.7% of them are of Hispanic/Latinx descent.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California:

  • About 13.6% of African Americans, 11.5% of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, and 10.2% of whites lived in poverty.

  • The poverty rate for foreign-born Californians was 17.6%, compared to 11.5% for US-born residents; poverty among undocumented immigrants was 29.6%.

  • In early 2023, poverty was markedly higher for seniors (15.2%) than for children (13.8%) and adults 18–64 (12.6%)—a change from pre-pandemic years, when child poverty was highest.

  • Education is tied to poverty rates: 6.4% of college graduates age 25–64 and 22.3% of adults age 25–64 without a high school diploma lived in poverty. Since fall 2021, poverty increased 2.8 points among less-educated adults.


When it comes to work status, workers in service industries and agriculture experience a higher rate of poverty than those in other work sectors. Per CalMatters, “People in building and grounds maintenance… have a 20% poverty rate, followed by workers in food preparation and service who endure a 16% poverty rate.” The average California worker living in poverty makes about $28,000 annually and these same workers also happen to come from historically underrepresented groups.

When we talk about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion being integrated into what we do, part of that work includes educating ourselves about who we are doing the work for and why we are doing it. Building equity in our broken systems means having an understanding of where unjust inequalities exist.