This month United Ways of California released Struggling to Stay Afloat: The Real Cost Measure in California 2018. This report dives into the financial challenges of working families in California by dissecting groups based on neighborhood, race/ethnicity, household type, education, and citizenship. Unlike the official poverty measure, the Real Cost Measure factors in the costs of housing, food, health care, child care, transportation and other basic needs to determine what it truly costs to live in California.

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As we work towards ending homelessness by breaking the cycle of poverty, this information is essential to our fight for Economic Mobility. The report found that one in three households in California, over 3.3 million families struggle every month to meet basic needs. This struggle can quickly lead to debt, inability to pay for basic necessities and,  ultimately to losing housing.

In Los Angeles County, 38% of households fall below the Real Cost Measure and 97% of these households have at least one working adult. In order to stop these numbers from growing, United Way of Greater Los Angeles works with partners and programs to connect people to the resources they need to become economically stable. This includes helping low-income families with free tax assistance, working with veterans to secure living-wage jobs, and providing assistance with basic household necessities. With monthly housing costs steadily rising, it has become increasingly difficult to find affordable housing fit for the household type and affordable housing in safe areas. According to the 2018 report, here are three Real Cost Budgets for Los Angeles County residents:

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This budget looks at a bare-bones monthly financial plan that reflects constrained yet reasonable choices for essential expenses. Currently the median household income for a household comprised of two adults, one infant, and one school-aged child is $68,214. For an identical household where the two adults have two minimum wage jobs each, this number drops significantly to $33,280. This means that a minimum-wage household lives $46,141 below the Real Cost Measure Budget.

High housing costs are a major challenge for struggling households. 46% of all households in the county spend more than 30% of their income on housing. United Way of Greater Los Angeles has fought this issue by leading the passage of Prop HHH and Measure H  that secured nearly $5 billion in civic funding over the next 10 years. These dollars will work to build supportive housing for our homeless neighbors. UWGLA has also launched the EVERYONE IN campaign that is working to mobilize local communities in support of sustainable temporary to permanent housing for individuals who are currently homeless, but to also help prevent those individuals from returning to living on the streets.

The Real Cost Measure in California 2018 examines the cost of living throughout California and how that cost impacts families and individuals based on today’s updated way of modern living. The report includes a deep dive into the real cost of living based on neighborhood and county followed by an analysis of households most impacted by rising housing costs and stagnate incomes.  

To read the full report, please visit https://www.unitedwaysca.org/realcostOn the website, you will be able to see an executive summary, the full report, the methodology used, neighborhood maps, county maps and more. The Real Cost Measure in California also features an interactive household budget that calculates basic needs for up to 20 persons in a household for each of California’s 58 counties.

Help United Way of Greater Los Angeles work to decrease the number of households living in poverty by donating today.