BAKERSFIELD, CA – Today, United Way of Kern County held a roundtable discussion about United Way’s highly informative The Real Cost Measure in California 2023 study, finding four in ten Kern County households are struggling to meet their daily needs. The 2023 Real Cost Measure study finds that 40% of Kern County households do not earn enough to cover their basic living expenses, with Latino and Black households struggling the most.

In Kern County, African Americans and Latinos have a disproportionate number of households with incomes below the Real Cost Measure. Of the 91,031 households below the standard, 57,984 are Latino. The research also found that 62% of Kern County households with children under the age of six struggle at a higher rate than the rest of the county. The housing burden also plays a great factor in the Real Cost Measure, 35% of all households in the county spend more than 30% of their income on housing. 

The degree of struggle in Kern County is far higher than the official poverty measure suggests. Overall, we find that 4 in 10 households in Kern County struggle to meet basic needs when we account for the costs of housing, food, health care, childcare and other basic essentials. We must all do better to help local families address their ongoing financial stress,” said Henry Gascon. 

Some of the study’s primary findings for the county include:

  • Latino and Black Households Struggle the Most: More than 57,000 Latino households (51%), 5,000 Black households (45%), and 23,000 White households (26%), struggle to make ends meet. 
  • Working households Struggle: 96% of households who fall below the Real Cost Measure, have at least one working adult. 68% of heads of household who work are employed full-time and year-round. 
  • Single Mothers: 67% of households led by single mothers in Kern County fall below the Real Cost Measure, nearly 20,000 households. 
  • More than Half of Households with Young Children Struggle: 62% of households in Kern County with children under the age of six fall below the Real Cost Measure. 
  • Housing Burden: 35% of all households in the county spend more than 30% of their income on housing. 
  • Less Educational Attainment Yields More Hardship: Nearly 7 in 10 households led by a person without a high school diploma fall below the Real Cost Measure (68%), compared to those with at least a high school diploma (49%), those with at least some college education (35%), and those with at least a bachelor’s degree (15%).
  • Foreign-born Households Struggle More than Native Born: 66% of U.S. non-citizens struggle to meet basic needs, compared to 40% of naturalized householders, and 33% of households led by a U.S. citizen.

Demographic findings from The Real Cost Measure in California 2023 are calculated from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, the latest available as of this release, and historical data is available from 2014 through 2019. The study’s website provides data findings for each of California’s 58 counties, down to the neighborhood level, interactive maps, and an interactive calculator that shows how much a household in any county needs to earn to make ends meet. To learn more, visit