Los Angeles County the capital of U.S. poverty

port of los angeles wikimedia 2The Census Bureau’s 2012 decision to begin releasing an alternative measure of poverty that included cost of living has appeared to have far-reaching effects in California as politicians, community leaders and residents react to the new measure’s depiction of the Golden State as the most impoverished place in America.

The fact that about 23 percent of state residents are barely getting by has helped fuel the push for a much higher minimum wage and prompted renewed interest in affordable housing programs. It’s also put the focus on regional economic disparities, especially the fact that Silicon Valley and San Francisco are the primary engine of state prosperity.

While the tech boom and the vast increase in housing prices it has triggered in the Bay Area are national news, prompting think pieces and thoughtful analyses, the poverty picture in the state’s largest population center isn’t covered nearly as fully. Although the fact is plain in Census Bureau data, it’s not commonly understood that Los Angeles County is the capital of U.S. poverty. A 2013 study by the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality based on 2011 data found 27 percent of the county’s 10 million residents were impoverished, the highest figure in the state and the highest of any large metro area in the U.S. The study questioned long-held assumptions about poverty being worst in rural areas.

But there are reasons to think the rate in Los Angeles County is significantly higher than the 27 percent reported in 2013.

The first is that many surveys of poverty struggle to account for undocumented immigrants, who often work for cash and don’t show up in wage surveys. The Pew Research Service in 2009 estimated that undocumented individuals face poverty rates “nearly double” those of Americans in general. Los Angeles County has by far the most undocumented immigrants, estimated by PPIC to be 815,000 in 2013.

The second is that the cost of housing has surged in Los Angeles County over the past four years even as wages have stagnated. The average rent of an apartment countywide is expected to be $1,800 by year’s end, with the biggest percentage jump in poorer communities in the San Fernando Valley.

Poverty-related stress takes heavy toll

A summer report by Southern California Public Radio laid out a grim picture of the toll this mass poverty takes on the young.

New research shows the mere fact of being poor can affect kids’ brains, making it difficult for them to succeed in school.


Los Angeles public schools — where more than 80 percent of students live in poverty — illustrate the challenges for these students. …


Children living in poor neighborhoods are more likely to suffer traumatic incidents, like witnessing or being the victims of shootings, parental neglect or abuse. They also struggle with pernicious daily stressors, including food or housing insecurity, overcrowding and overworked or underemployed, stressed-out parents.


Untreated, researchers have found these events compound, affecting many parts of the body. Studies show chronic stress can change the chemical and physical structures of the brain.


“You see deficits in your ability to regulate emotions in adaptive ways as a result of stress,” said Dr. Cara Wellman, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University.


Dendrites, which look like microscopic fingers, stretch off each brain cell to catch information.  Wellman’s studies in mice show that chronic stress causes these fingers to shrink, changing the way the brain works. She found deficiencies in the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain needed to solve problems, which is crucial to learning.


Other researchers link chronic stress to a host of cognitive effects, including trouble with attention, concentration, memory and creativity.

SCPR had a follow-up report that showed Los Angeles schools simply didn’t have the resources to help affected students in a comprehensive way.


Write a comment
    PAWMAN 2 December, 2015, 10:30

    If you keep raising the minimum wage, you’ll put manufacturing companies like mine out of business and then you’ll have more people on unemployement, thereby creating a strain on the state and throwing more people into “proverty”. Additionally, the minimum wage is supposed to be an entry level” wage. We advance our “entry level” people when they learn new operations and/or improve production and quality. By increasing the minimum wage you are taking all incentive away from the employee. Why should they try to improve if they know that they’ll just be pushed up through minimum wage increases. You are creating an atmosphere of entitlement and complacency – not what small business needs to be competitive in these tough economic times.

    Reply this comment
  2. Earl De Vries
    Earl De Vries 2 December, 2015, 16:52

    Chris Great to see your name again. I still have newspaper rack sign from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. “Chris Reed is watching”. Hope you have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!
    Ontario RAGE

    Reply this comment
  3. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 2 December, 2015, 22:08

    Of course f look how close it is to the border with Mexico and look how many demacrats run it

    Reply this comment
  4. Dypeptic
    Dypeptic 3 December, 2015, 09:57

    Isn’t it interesting that the most impoverished, racist, violent, corrupt places in this country ARE ALWAYS controlled by DemocRats. If you think that’s a coincidence then you are either a complete moron or a self deluded progressive fascist like Woodrow Wilson.

    Want more poverty, injustice, corruption, murder, abortion, unemployment and income disparity? Then keep voting for the party of megalomaniacal oligarchs and money grubbing, fascist hypocrites like Billary Clinton.

    Hello Ted, Uhaul, Queeg, NTHEOC, See Saw, etc. Please explain how your favorite political party/criminal enterprise is such a complete disaster for this country.

    Reply this comment
    • Ulysses Uhaul
      Ulysses Uhaul 5 December, 2015, 20:44

      It is is simple. Doomers produce. The poor and the kids take. Sort of hunter gathers redistibuting with little nudges by fair and balanced citizens!

      Reply this comment
  5. FMW
    FMW 3 December, 2015, 14:25

    Maybe some research needs to be done as to how much our cost of living in LA is because of govt regulations. Regulators need to be looking for ways to reduce the cost of living in So Ca. so those who are struggling would have more discretionary funds. Just look at our gas and utilities prices compared to the rest of the nation. How much of housing is due to the regulatory cost to build? Even eggs went up over a $1 per dozen this year due to new space regulations for chickens. Not to mention we are the highest taxed state in the union. A lower cost of living would be the fastest way to reduce poverty. It would be so great if our govt really wanted to help the poor by reducing what it cost to live here.

    Reply this comment
  6. Queeg
    Queeg 3 December, 2015, 22:53


    Hide, duck, cover…….plutocrats view of big ticket train and water tunnels while feathering pensions.

    Reply this comment
  7. desmond
    desmond 5 December, 2015, 17:37

    Dys, Ted Ahaul Queeg same blogger. As old as s);t.

    Reply this comment
  8. Coldhungrytired
    Coldhungrytired 29 October, 2016, 02:05

    What can one do if they make 24000.00 a year, dont qualify for any aid but cant afford gas for heating and cooking, have to shop at dollar store for food and has an illness that prevents that person to hold a second job?

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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