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New study paints sobering picture of cost of living in California

A United Ways of California study says about 1 out of 3 households are struggling to make ends meet in the Golden State.

CALIFORNIA, USA — A new cost of living study by the United Ways of California reveals what many already know: it's expensive to live in the Golden State.

The study "Struggling to Move up: The Real Cost Measure in California 2021" shows that nearly one out of three households in the state are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

"It shines a light on where there's need and where the gaps are with some of those aspects of need for different households," Peter Manzo, one of the study's authors, said.

The study measured Californians’ ability to afford childcare, rent, healthcare and other day-to-day needs, deemed "Real Cost Measure." It points out that 97% of households have a least one working adult.

The study also shows Hispanic households struggle at the highest rate in the state at 51%, while whites are at the lowest at 20%. 

Stockton came in as one of the most expensive places to live in California with 43% to 58% of households struggling. San Ramon and Danville in Contra Costa County had the lowest household "Real Cost Measure" at 11%, while neighborhood clusters in Los Angeles city and county had the highest rate at 80%.

"It requires us to look at what we are paying people, because people have this perception (that) just because the cost of living in Stockton may be less than it is in Los Angeles... somehow we should be paying people less," Jose Rodriguez, President and CEO of El Concilio in Stockton, said.

Not surprisingly, the United Way study points to "high housing costs" as the "primary burden for struggling households." It shows that nearly one out of four California households spend 30% or more of their income on housing.

"These families are struggling, so they're taking out payday loans because of emergency situations or I'm paying 90%... of my income, 90% is going to my rent," Toni McNeil, with the racial justice and health equity based non-profit Faith in the Valley in Stockton, said. "Rent right now is a profit. Housing is a commodity. It is not seen as a basic human right. That needs to be addressed in a very strong way."

To read the entire study, visit Unitedwaysca.org.

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