Enough Is Enough with the “Bootstraps”

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.

 


Get the Facts on AB 1520, the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force

Assembly Bill 1520, the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force, creates an expert task force made up of leaders and stakeholders from inside and outside government that will develop a comprehensive, data-driven plan that lays the groundwork to end child poverty in California.

AB 1520, authored by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke and sponsored by the anti-poverty non-profit GRACE passed the legislature with bipartisan support and not one dissenting vote. The legislation is informed by the latest poverty research from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

AB 1520 is now on the Governors desk awaiting his signature.

BACKGROUND

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 one in five children or 1.9 million California children affected. Almost one-third of African American children and one-third of Latino children in California live in poverty.

Efforts to invest in measures to reduce child poverty have been hampered by a lack of sustained focus and a defined, comprehensive plan for addressing the problem. AB 1520 takes the first step in addressing child poverty through the creation of a task force that will develop a comprehensive plan with proven, data-driven solutions to significantly reduce California’s child poverty rate.

ASSEMBLY BILL 1520

AB 1520 addresses deep poverty and moves toward reducing the overall child poverty rate in California by creating the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force, which will provide a comprehensive plan to the Legislature and various state agencies.

The task force will consist of stakeholders that focus on family and child well-being, from birth to adulthood, in furtherance of the goals of reducing child poverty and alleviating family crises.

Expert analysis finds that over time, a comprehensive and data-driven approach will save taxpayers money in healthcare and social services, reduce overcrowded jails and prisons, decrease child abuse, and significantly reduce the number of children living in poverty, with an estimated 2:1 return on investment for taxpayers.

See the full text of the bill here.

SUPPORT

  • GRACE (sponsor)
  • Alameda County Board of Supervisors
  • Bonnie M. Dumanis San Diego County District Attorney
  • California Alternative Payment Program Association
  • California Catholic Conference
  • California Coverage and Health Initiatives
  • California Legislative Black Caucus
  • California State Parent Teacher Association
  • California Health+ Advocates
  • Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
  • Children Now
  • Children’s Defense Fund
  • First 5 California
  • First AME Church of Los Angeles
  • First Focus Campaign for Children
  • Golden State Opportunity
  • Health Access California
  • Jewish Public Affairs Committee
  • Junior Leagues of CA
  • LA PROMISE
  • Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Los Angeles Promise Neighborhood
  • Los Angeles Urban League
  • Moneta Gardens Community Center
  • Mothers In Action, Inc.
  • National Association of Social Workers, CA Chapter
  • National Foster Youth Institute
  • One For All (OFA)
  • Public Counsel
  • San Diego County District Attorney
  • SHIELDS for families
  • Social Justice Learning Institute
  • South Bay Community Services
  • South Bay Universal Child Development Center
  • St. John’s Well Child & Family Center
  • St. Joseph Center Planting Hope & Growing Lives
  • University of Southern California
  • Western Center on Law and Poverty
  • Youth Policy Institute


Applying Science to Solve Poverty: CA’s AB 1520

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.

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Find out more about the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality here.

Read the bill text for AB 1520 here.


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