Could your family make ends meet with an annual income of $23,850? That’s the 2014 Federal Poverty Level, and more than 131,000 Contra Costans (12.5% of the population) live in households earning even less. 38,000 are children.

Many families who live in poverty are at greater risk for experiencing social stressors and isolation that negatively impact children’s health, learning and development. At our recent Strategic Planning retreat, First 5 Commissioners reviewed the latest data on children in poverty in Contra Costa County. Here’s what we learned:

The county’s ethnic diversity has increased since 2000. Latino children make up the largest percentage of children under age 6.


Young children of color represent a disproportionally higher percentage of children under the age of 6 living in poverty (at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level).

While there is a nearly equal percentage of Latino children (36%) and White children (31%) under the age of 6 in Contra Costa County, Latino children make up over half (55%) of all children under the age of 6 who live at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.


Within ethnic groups, there is an alarmingly high percentage of African American children (33%) and Latino children (24%) under 6 years old who live in families that have incomes below the 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.


While it may seem impossible for a family to make ends meet earning $23,850 a year, the reality is that many Contra Costa children live in deep poverty. Deep poverty means that a family of four earned less than $11,925. Countywide there are 5,499 children under the age of 6 who live in deep poverty, and in nine of the county’s census tracts, between one-fourth and one-half of children younger than 6 live in deep poverty. This is particularly shocking given that the county’s Self-Sufficiency Standard (the actual amount needed to make ends meet) is $71,711 per year.

Given these data on family economics in Contra Costa County, it’s no wonder that service providers in recent First 5 focus groups named families’ struggle to meet their most basic needs is one of the primary challenges that families face, and the lack of resources to help families meet their basic needs as one of the primary gaps in their organizations and the service system. This persistent gap between needs and available resources often impacts families’ readiness and ability to engage in First 5-funded services, and it’s a system-level challenge that new policies must address.

Learn More:

For more information about poverty and policies needed to reduce it, visit Contra Costa County’s Ensuring Opportunity Campaign:

To learn more about how young children are doing in Contra Costa County, see the Briefing Book we produced for our planning process.

See this new study out of Stanford outlining how to reduce poverty in California.