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Using the California Self-Sufficiency Standard in Practice: Ideas for Organizations and Public Agencies Working to Help Families Move Out of Poverty

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The Problem: California Families Struggling to Make Ends Meet

Community groups, foundations, job training organizations and public agencies in California are using a tool that has enabled them to better help their clients and members move from poverty to economic independence: the Self-Sufficiency Standard. The Self-Sufficiency Standard describes the basic costs required to make ends meet for working families. The Standard has the ability to illustrate the vast and common underestimation of poverty perpetuated by widespread use of the Federal Poverty Line. By using the Self-Sufficiency Standard, we can see that the number of families struggling to make ends meet is actually larger than commonly recognized. As a result, those families' needs are rarely recognized by public agencies that use traditional measures of poverty.

In June of 2003, the National Economic Development and Law Center released a report finding that 3 out of 10 households in California have incomes too low to pay for basic needs. In comparison, using the Federal Poverty Line as a measure, about 1 out of 10 California households had incomes below poverty.