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‘How Much It Costs to Struggle': Real Cost of Living in California

‘How Much It Costs to Struggle': Real Cost of Living in California

Irvine residents celebrate the grand opening of H Mart in Irvine, Calif., on Jan. 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Carol Cassis

Carol Cassis

8/18/2023

Updated: 8/21/2023

United Ways of California, a Pasadena-based nonprofit aimed at helping low-income families and which is associated with the United Way, recently released its Real Cost Measure Report revealing that over a third of California households do not earn sufficient income to meet their basic needs.
According to the nonprofit, the study factors the costs of housing, food, health care, child care, transportation, and other basic needs to show the total cost of living in the Golden State.
Among its findings, the report concluded that the cost for a family of four—specifically two parents and two children—to have their basic needs met is just under $110,000 in the state.
The study also found that of the 3.7 million California households living under the study’s poverty line—which varies based on household size—97 percent have at least one working adult, and that over half of California households with children under six struggle financially.
The study also found that single-mother households accounted for a large bulk of those struggling the most, with 7 in 10 single mothers falling below the poverty line, which is over half a million households in the state, according to the nonprofit.
Some Orange County residents are also feeling the sting, many of whom say they can’t afford homes in the area as the cost of living continues to climb.
According to the study, a family of four living in Orange County requires $103,000 to make ends meet.
“It’s sad because I’ve always believed that if you work hard and have an entrepreneurial spirit, you can adapt and overcome,” Huntington Beach resident Mark Lee told The Epoch Times. “But now most people in our situation live with this reality that unless we win the lottery or can find a job that pays us three times what we’re making now, we’re going to have to do our best to just save up money here and be able to move to another state someday if we ever want to buy a house. Homeownership here is pretty unrealistic.”
Homes await buyers in the City of Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 21, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Homes await buyers in the City of Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 21, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Lee and his wife, Valeria, reported a 20 percent increase in their apartment rent in the last two years, along with around a 15 percent increase in utilities, and grocery costs reaching $800 per month for the pair.
“The better jobs [in my sector] are like $65,000 to $75,000 if you were going to be a manager of something. Those are below the poverty line, even if you and your spouse are both working jobs. ... You’re working more than 40 hours a week to make hopefully $40,000 to $50,000 after taxes, and nobody can afford to live like that in Orange County,” he said.
The pair moved to Orange County within the last five years, and now say they have no choice but to eventually move out of state to be able to live a “reasonably comfortable life.”
Mr. Lee, who sells solar energy systems to local homeowners going door-to-door, says many homeowners who bought 10 or more years ago tell him they also would not be able to afford their current homes if purchasing in today’s market.
“That was when it kind of hit me ... things have changed so rapidly that it’s taken a lot of us out of the running for being able to buy a home and maintain some kind of reasonable lifestyle,” he said.
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Carol Cassis

Carol Cassis

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California Insider
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