The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” phrase is everywhere. But let’s name it for what it is: a bully phrase that insults millions of working families living on a razor’s edge every day.
If you pay attention to stories and statistics, you know that working families are already pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.
- 78% of families on Medicaid include a family member who works.
- Of families who receive SNAP, the federal food assistance program, 55% are working families, and 71% of families who turn to food pantries have a household member who is working.
- Demanding, critical careers like home health aides (averaging $23,600 per year) and child-care workers (averaging $21,170 per year) pay too little to cover basic costs like rent or childcare.
Veronica, a member of our community, shared, “The bureaucracy is astounding when it comes to families applying to ‘child care subsidies,’ even a mom with three children who is working and earning $18 an hour can’t afford child care, and if she does, it’s not available after 5:00pm, half an hour earlier than what she needs, because of her work schedule!”
Bootstraps are clearly not enough.
We need comprehensive, research-backed strategies to dramatically reduce poverty—strategies that meet the needs of California’s hard-working families.
Our next generation is depending on us. Join us.
By David Grusky, Ph.D, Professor of Sociology, Stanford University; Director, Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality (Above, Professor Grusky testifies at an April hearing for AB 1520)
May 2017 – When a highway bridge collapses in California, as one recently did in Big Sur, there’s no paralyzing legislative debate about whether to fix it, how to fix it, or even when to fix it. We just fix it.
So here’s a puzzle: Why don’t we also “just fix it” when it comes to repairing California’s poverty problem? It’s beyond debate, just to be clear, that California does have a massive poverty problem: The best available measure, the California Poverty Measure, puts the overall poverty rate at 20.6 percent and the child poverty rate at 23.1 percent.
Why has California, the land of plenty, evidently decided that it’s just fine to have one of the country’s highest poverty rates? Here’s the main reason: It’s widely believed that we just don’t know how to take on poverty. We’re quick to fix the bridge because at least we know how to fix it. But poverty, by contrast, is seen as too complicated to remedy.
This view, however widespread it may be, confuses effects with causes. It’s quite right that the effects of poverty are complicated: These effects show up, for example, as health problems, cognitive problems, education problems, crime problems, marital problems, and labor market problems. It’s a massive, complicated, and unending job to treat the effects of poverty. It’s like plugging holes in a dam.
But the causes of poverty are, by contrast, comparatively simple and well understood. In recent decades, we’ve seen major advances in the science of poverty, advances that now make it possible — for the first time — to treat poverty at its source and reduce it permanently. This new science of poverty identifies the major turning points and junctures in a child’s life and identifies the interventions at each juncture that have been proven to work. When these interventions are knitted together into a comprehensive plan, they have a powerfully cumulative effect. The key features of this new science — and how it might be applied to reduce poverty in California — have been laid out in a recent report issued by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.
When poverty is treated at its source, the safety net becomes a sacred institution for restoring the American Dream. It’s not about charity. It’s about recommitting us to the principle that opportunity shouldn’t be put on the market and sold only to parents who have the money to buy it for their children.
But we can’t restore the American Dream with reports, science, and research alone. We also need good law. The latter comes in the form of AB 1520, the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act of 2017, authored by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood). This bill mandates that California move into the 21st century by building an anti-poverty response based on the new science of poverty. It mandates that our response must reduce child poverty by 50 percent over 20 years. And it mandates that we rigorously evaluate our progress toward that goal.
We of course don’t know how to do all this perfectly. But that shouldn’t paralyze us. We can continuously monitor the effectiveness of our interventions to assess what’s working and to reform our interventions in response to unforeseen results or new developments in science. The simple upshot: We can — and should — get started now and then continuously improve our response over time.
We thus have one of those rare opportunities to take control of California’s future and stand up for our children, expose the state’s lip-service commitment to equal opportunity, and to make it clear that — at least in California — we’ll make our commitment to equal opportunity a real and authentic one.
Find out more about the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality here.
Read the bill text for AB 1520 here.
We’re honoring moms this week, because after-school programs, early childhood education, and access to high-quality child care benefit more than kids–they help lift moms out of poverty, too.
Failure to address child poverty guarantees the continued cycle of poverty. Moms want more for our kids and their futures.
Moms need support, and strong moms support AB 1520, the Lifting Children and Families out of Poverty Act.
Let’s break the cycle of poverty for one million California children. Join in to support AB 1520.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Sunday’s Rally to End Child Poverty drew almost 500 people to South Los Angeles, and marked a catalyst for the movement to end child poverty in California. The LA Times article features some of the rally’s speakers, including high school senior Ilene Garcia, Rep. John Lewis, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Assemblywoman Autumn Burke.
Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D–Inglewood) just introduced The Lifting Children and Families out of Poverty Act, AB 1520, in the California State Assembly.
This landmark legislation commits California to a goal of reducing child poverty by 50% over 20 years, and provides a framework of research-backed solutions to achieve it.
California has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure that accounts for the high cost of living in our state. That translates to 1.9 million, or one in five California children. Child poverty of this magnitude will take a generation to change: AB 1520 provides the tools to do it.
Join in supporting The Lifting Children and Families out of Poverty Act:
AB 1520 gives California the opportunity to set a model for the nation in reducing child poverty—dramatically improving the lives of California’s children and families, and strengthening our economy.
The national election results were shocking. Despite the results, I believe most Americans are good people who care about each other and our country. So we need to build bridges, respect one another, better communicate and fight hard everyday to ensure constitutional protections are enforced and essential services continue.
The election results also require that we fight to ensure that the vulnerable among us — including children — are provided equal opportunity. We can do that in California, as shown by the state and local election results. In addition to statewide results, the City of Los Angeles passed a measure to fund housing for the homeless, Marin County passed a measure to fund early childhood education and after school programs for low-income children, and San Mateo County passed a measure to fund programs that help to alleviate poverty.
But while California leads the nation in policies to combat climate change, provide equal pay for equal work, and raising the minimum wage, California also leads in the number of children living in poverty.
One in five children in California lives in poverty — 1.9 million to be exact — and 30% of Latino and 30% of African American children live in poverty.
I expect the new administration to take aim at health care and social services. But I am also confident that in California we can break the cycle of poverty because WE KNOW HOW TO DO IT.
In coordination with the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, GRACE developed a comprehensive plan that will reduce poverty by 50%. It includes early childhood education and childcare, job training, voluntary home visiting and family support and income support programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
We know how to fix this but we need you to join our effort to raise awareness and take action.
Please sign up to the End Child Poverty in California campaign today. By joining our campaign, you’ll receive updates and actions you can take to help reduce the number of children in California living in poverty.
Now is the time for California to create a future for ALL of our children.
Let’s get to work.
President and CEO