Editorial: Housing costs are pushing millions of Californians into poverty

The cost of housing is so high in California, it’s pushing millions of people into poverty.

This isn’t hyperbole. When the cost of living is weighed, California has had the highest poverty rate in the country for years — more than 20 percent of residents, or nearly 8 million people.

Now, there’s evidence that solving California’s housing crisis would dramatically reduce the number of people living in poverty here.

The official federal poverty measure doesn’t take regional variations in the cost of living into account, so many experts don’t consider it to be the most accurate metric. It’s under “supplemental” poverty measures, dating back to the late 1960s, that California looks considerably different from the rest of the U.S.

Now, researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California and Stanford University are bringing even greater scrutiny to an item that’s consuming more and more of lower-income Californians’ resources: housing.

Their results are startling. When the researchers ran a model of the state’s poverty rate with every Californian bearing costs similar to those in Fresno County, the overall poverty rate declined dramatically — from about 21 percent to 14 percent. That’s nearly 2.4 million Californians who would no longer be in poverty.

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