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Survey: 40% of Black women in California are teetering on financial brink

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A new California Black Women's Think Tank survey finds that two out of every five Black women in California are just a paycheck away from financial instability.

The survey of 1,258 Black women voters across the state found that 37 percent work two or more jobs - this includes 62 percent who do so because it is "essential" and they would "not be able to make ends meet" without the additional income.

The California Black Women's Think Tank is a policy institute housed at the California State University at Dominguez Hills through a $5 million budget trailer bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2022. The survey is part of an effort by the institute to improve structures that impact the lives of Black women and girls across the state.

In the Bay Area, 33 percent of working Black women work more than one job. Fifty-eight percent of those women say that it is essential that they hold more than one job, and they would not be able to make ends meet otherwise.

Across California, the survey reveals two in five Black women face challenges covering basic expenses. Dealing with inflation and the rising cost of living (80 percent), managing stress (66 percent), and finding financial resources (53 percent), were among the top concerns for Black women in California.

"The results are sobering and paint a picture of the pressures that threaten Black women's stability and financial security," said Kellie Todd Griffin, president and CEO of the California Black Women's Collective Empowerment Institute, at a news conference Tuesday. "This data is a call to action for meaningful change to policymakers, advocates, and community leaders to address these pressing issues and disparity gaps."

Forty percent of respondents stated that racism and discrimination had limited their income and earning capacity, shedding light on the structural inequalities faced by Black women.

In the Bay Area, all respondents reported higher levels of homelessness, violence, and crime than what other Black women reported from other regions. Shakari Byerly, the managing partner of EVITARUS, a Los Angeles-based Black-owned public opinion research firm that designed, conducted, and analyzed the research, said racism and discrimination may be a reason.

"In traditionally African American or Black communities in the Bay Area, people have been more dispersed because of the lack of affordability," Byerly said. "And that concern about racism and discrimination may be a function of that, especially when crime disproportionately impacts these urban areas."

When asked about their top policy priorities for improving the lives of women and girls in California, Black women mentioned equal pay for equal work compared to men and women of other backgrounds (88%), the need for affordable housing (86 percent), doing more to protect Black women and girls from violence (85 percent), expanding access to quality, affordable health care (84 percent); fresh, healthy food (80 percent) and mental health services (80 percent).

Assemblymember Lori Wilson, D-Suisun City, described the study as staggering.

"We need real data on experiences of Black women so that the legislator and anyone involved in advocacy positions can make meaningful policy that will drive the change we need to improve their lives," Wilson said.

The poll on Black women voters is the first public project of the California Black Women's Think Tank. 

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