Nearly nine million Californians—almost a quarter of the state's residents—live in poverty under a newly devised federal standard, making the state's rate by far the highest in the nation.
The stunning number will fuel California's perpetual political debate over the state's "safety net" of health and welfare services, which have been reduced sharply due to budget deficits. With voter approval of new taxes, advocates for the poor are demanding that some of the benefit cuts be rescinded.
California's 23.5 percent poverty rate under the "supplemental poverty measure" (SPM) developed by the Census Bureau is approached only by the 23.2 percent rate in the District of Columbia. The highest SPM rate in any other state is Florida's 19.5 percent.