As we learn more about working Californians who are struggling with poverty, each conversation produces insights and inspiration.
That was certainly true for a July 13 learning session that we hosted on the challenges facing California families and young adults with low-income jobs – and the implications for our state. More than 150 people attended a teleconference call to listen and pose questions to two remarkable panelists: labor economist Sarah Bohn of the Public Policy Institute of California and sociologist and economist Manuel Pastor of the University of Southern California.
They shared the latest data on poverty in California, including these troubling statistics:
Helping us to dig deeper, Manuel and Sarah offered important insights on the drivers and effects of this profound income disparity in our state:
Despite these challenges, Sarah and Manuel maintain hope. Sarah identified bright spots such as California’s increased investment in education, as well as growth in career pathways for Californians.
Manuel told us that he is encouraged by the success of innovative efforts like Integrated Voter Engagement to mobilize new and occasional voters to participate more effectively in the political process. He also sees a growing number of “high-road businesses” with interest in shifting employment and wage practices to elevate workers with low incomes.
Sarah’s recent research demonstrates that programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit can make a difference. While our safety net does not erase poverty, these programs do help reduce disparities and increase civic involvement.
At Irvine, we found the discussion illuminating because we know that the challenges are great, but so too is the opportunity before us to spotlight – and expand – what is working.
We know that learning from outside experts and leaders will help us make smart investments, so we’re grateful to our panelists, participants, and our co-hosts for this event: Northern California Grantmakers, San Diego Grantmakers, and Southern California Grantmakers. As we move forward with efforts to hear directly from our fellow Californians who are working but struggling with poverty, we will continue to share what we’re learning with all of you.
We invite you to listen to a recording of the hour-long conversation and to join the conversation at #IrvineChat. We also look forward to continued updates and dialogue as Irvine advances our evolving focus.