top of page

Project Overview

Project Scope & Purpose


Under a grant from The James Irvine Foundation, California Business Roundtable (CBRT) convened a collaborative process among a broad range of stakeholder groups to address the issues affecting poverty, jobs, and upward mobility in California.  This multi-pronged effort incorporates the following objectives:


  • To ensure both worker and employer voices are heard, understood, and addressed, conduct quantitative non-partisan research program that will study the needs, anxieties, perceptions, and goals pertaining to the workforce and quality of life issues in California.


  • To develop a common dataset among all stakeholders that can eliminate the debate on the source and quality of information and allow the stakeholders to focus on solutions.


  • To utilize a stakeholder process to examine the various local and state-level initiatives currently in place.


  • To develop viable policy solutions to address challenges impacting poverty, jobs, and upward mobility in California.


  • To conduct an educational outreach campaign based on a well thought out statewide strategy and stakeholder involvement to move forward actionable and viable policy options.


This document contains the recommendations for proposed policy changes to address the challenges—identified in the other components of the overall project—affecting poverty, jobs, and upward mobility in California.  These recommendations in turn will form the basis for the final component above.


The overall approach contained within the recommendations is to provide more effective delivery systems for the resources the research participants identified as critical to upward mobility.  Rather than the current system of multiple bureaucracies trying to guide Californians out of poverty, the focus is on targeting the key barriers, and enabling Californians with the resources to make the decisions that best reflect their circumstances and those of their families.


To be effective, however, disintermediation of the current bureaucratic structures must come through greater engagement at the local level, both from businesses and from Californians seeking to escape from the growing economic divide in the state’s two-tier structure.  Both can contribute to the identification of problems and the development of new perspectives on those problems, provide advice on the proposed changes to the state and local programs, keep government officials on their toes, and serve as a vital communications link and outreach to intended beneficiaries.  The educational outreach component will be structured to incorporate these considerations.


Project Research Components


Research conducted in support of these recommendations is contained in the following project reports:


1. Barriers to Economic Development, Qualitative Research Summary Report: Vision Strategy and Insights, July 2017


Contains the results from a series of focus groups held in Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego.  Two sessions with low income, below poverty, and unemployed Californians were conducted in each market:  multicultural and less acculturated Latinos.  These sessions explored:  (1) what barriers those in poverty and the working poor in California perceive as their greatest obstacles to upward economic mobility; (2) understand what these populations need in order to overcome those obstacles—i.e., education, transportation, childcare, housing, good/better paying jobs, etc.; and (3)  develop measurable, objective, and widely accepted concepts that can lead to viable public policy options to address the issues affecting poverty, jobs and upward mobility in California. 


2. St. John’s Women and Children’s Shelter Graduates


In addition to focus groups contained in the previous report, another was held with single mothers who formerly were clients of St. John’s Women and Children’s Shelter in Sacramento.  This group was drawn from that program’s graduates from 2008 through 2016, all of whom are currently working.  Comparable to the insights obtained through the other focus groups, the key findings from the participants in this session were: 


  • The safety net system is difficult to navigate, takes too much time, and has no personal contact.


  • A big problem is monitoring income levels for qualification of benefits and having to repay with penalties and interest any payments made once income levels disqualify benefits.


  • Turning benefits on and off is difficult to navigate and time delays in doing so come with big penalties that can set recipients back.


  • As a result, some chose not to seek assistance for which they might be qualified.


  • Housing costs and finding safe, affordable housing is their biggest challenge.


  • Universal income was not well received.  Participants believed working develops self-worth, sobriety, independence, purpose, and a sense of community. 


  • An online, one-stop portal would be helpful that monitored income levels and qualification of benefits.


  • Need budgeting skills, childcare, and mental health services.


  • Need more education about EITC.


3. Barriers to Economic Development in California, Quantitative Research Study, Summary Report: Vision Strategy and Insights, November 2017


Following from the issues identified in the focus groups, this report contains the results of the survey of lower income Californians, addressing the following objectives:  (1) survey lower-income Californians about their perceptions of the economy, jobs, wages, and the cost of living, as well as their experience with job training and economic assistance programs; (2) further quantify results of the focus groups in order to more clearly identify the causes of poverty and barriers to upward mobility; and (3) test concepts that might address these barriers to economic development and gauge which might best help Californians in poverty move up the economic ladder.


4. Barriers to Economic Development in California, Quantitative Employer Survey, Summary Report: Vision Strategy and Insights, December 2017


To understand their views on these issues and the challenges they perceive for their employees, a survey of California employers was conducted to:  (1) determine employers’ views of the economy, costs of doing business, and business challenges; (2) understand employers’ perceptions of employee wages, benefits, and cost of living; (3) learn their plans for hiring, workforce management, and automation for the next year; (4) identify the benefits and opportunities their companies offer to employees and community members; and (5) test concepts for assistance programs that might help employees who are part of the working poor become more upwardly mobile.


5. Data Report

California Center for Jobs & the Economy, February 2018


This report summarizes data quantifying the issues discussed in the prior reports, with sections on the following issues:  (1) demographic data providing basic population information on those in poverty and the working poor; (2) jobs data describing California’s changing jobs structure by industry, wages, and hours worked; (3) employment data addressing the changing structure of the labor force; and (4) cost-of-living data to address issues raised frequently in the focus groups, including comparative costs on housing, commuting, and other cost-of-living factors.  The corresponding data series have been incorporated into the Center’s recent update of its web site data tools and/or are available in a separate pivot table that includes user-defined charts.


6. California Public Assistance Programs & Economic Mobility

California Center for Jobs & the Economy, February 2018


Identifies the various federal, state, and related local programs that provide income assistance, training, and other services associated with the overall goal of assisting Californians in preparing for, joining, and moving up within the workforce.  The report describes the major programs along with funding sources and a general assessment of the applicability of each program to providing Californians with the skills and/or resources to pursue upward mobility in the state’s evolving economy.


In the recommendation sections that follow, excerpts from these reports are notated with the number of the source report in brackets.  Additional information of each of the points can be obtained in the referenced report.

bottom of page