In summary

California has an opportunity to leverage surplus and stimulus funds to bridge income inequality. Our dashboard from the California Divide team tracks whether the state can turn the tide.

California is awash in cash — $100 billion says Gov. Gavin Newsom.

While much of the federal aid and taxes from the rich will be used to provide core services such as education and health care, the windfall also provides a once-in-a-generational opportunity to tackle one of California’s most vexing problems: income inequality

As the pandemic exacerbates a pre-existing wealth gap that has disproportionately hurt women and people of color, the California Divide’s five-newsroom team has found renters bracing for an eviction tsunami, residents saddled by water bills, parents put in lifelong debt by child support, and students unable to access stable broadband for learning. Expectations are high for a turnaround. Already, experts have speculated that the federal relief alone could be enough to cut California’s child poverty in half

Our dashboard is intended to be a gauge for California’s response. As the governor and Legislature debate spending priorities, our team is interested in monitoring the effects on the ground: How is the state using its surplus to improve lives? Are low-income workers making gains relative to those at the top? Can tenants afford rent in the region they live? Is child poverty going down? Through these questions, we hope to monitor whether the state is on track for a more equitable economic recovery.

Jump down to...

Who's able to find work?

Low-wage workers were most likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic.

While middle- and high-wage workers have begun to recover employment, low-wage workers have not. This chart shows employment change since January 2020.

And what's the pay gap?

The average California worker makes $65,740 a year but there’s a big pay gap between restaurant servers and CEOs.

This chart shows wages by occupation.

How much does a house cost?

Real estate prices have soared across the state during the pandemic.

It’s not just a shortage of homes, but bad housing policy decisions stemming from local resistance and mismanagement have also contributed to the crisis. The median price of a house in the Bay Area tops $1.3 million.

And can tenants afford rent?

Some 2 million Californians are living with the stress of losing their homes.

These renters have been temporarily helped by a moratorium on evictions, but the ban is set to lift June 30. This chart shows how many hours a worker at local minimum wage would need to pay for a one-bedroom apartment.

What's the poverty rate?

Federal stimulus includes a child tax credit that is being likened to a universal basic income for California families.

On paper, the credit has the potential to lift half of California children out of poverty, which could be especially beneficial for Latino and Black children. Can the state with the highest poverty rate in the nation turn the tide?

And how many people are going hungry?

It’s been well-documented that minorities, particularly Blacks and Latinos, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, particularly immigrant women.

One stark illustration is the proportion of households reporting they’re not getting enough food to eat each week.

How much federal stimulus money are we getting?

A significant portion of federal aid is going directly into people’s pockets in the form of stimulus checks, unemployment benefits and emergency rent relief.

But state and local governments will benefit by the billions to help close deficits, boost education spending and increase public assistance programs.

Click each rectangle to see more detail.

How much are we spending on the state's budget?

In the case of the state, Newsom and lawmakers also have a surplus to spend.

In his latest budget proposal, the Democratic governor charted a course to expand preschool, summer school and after-school programs. He also wants to expand the Golden State Stimulus to the middle class, among a long list of ideas.

Hover over each rectangle to see more detail.

CalMatters staff Judy Lin, John Osborn D'Agostino, Jackie Botts and Nigel Duara contributed to this story.

This article is part of the California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.

About the Data

The data used in this dashboard are pulled from the sources listed below each graphic. A few extra notes:

The data in the rent table are the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Market Rents (FMRs), which represent the cost to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in a local housing market. Work hours needed per week are calculated using local minimum wage and the affordability metric of rent not exceeding 30% of household income. Minimum wages used to calculate: San Francisco ($16.07), Los Angeles ($14.25), Chico and Fresno (state $13.00).

For the analysis of food sufficiency data from the Census Bureau's Pulse Survey, we included respondents that reported food in their household was "often not enough to eat" and "sometimes not enough to eat" in the last 7 days. The percentage is calculated out of those who responded to the question. Because of the potential volatility of percentages, especially for subgroups such as race/ethnicity, we pooled 2 observations of data into one percentage per group per month to reduce the margin of error.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions: [email protected]

Erica is a data reporter at CalMatters helping develop data-driven graphics and tools. As a California native, she is excited to contribute to important coverage of state issues through engaging projects....