California has the highest poverty rate in the country. A widespread epidemic in the U.S., poverty affects health, access to education, homelessness, unemployment, and food security.
California’s Central Valley is one of the world’s most productive and fastest growing agricultural regions in the country.* Stretching for 450 miles, more than 6.5 million people inhabit the area. It is estimated that the Valley will be home to almost 12 million people in 2040.** Migration is the leading source of population growth with jobs, housing, and family the primary reasons for relocation, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Fresno, Modesto, and Bakersfield-Delano—all within the Central Valley region—are three of the top five U.S. cities or counties with the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line.
Poverty can be defined as the condition of lacking sufficient money or goods to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. Forty-five million people qualify as poor in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that in 2014, a person earning less than $11,670, or $23,850 for a family of four, is living in poverty.
In this photo essay, photographer Matt Black creates a unique and in-depth overview of poverty throughout California’s Central Valley using photos, geolocations, and poverty data. For 20 years, Black has documented migration, farm labor, and poverty issues in the Central Valley, where he lives. He was a 2003 Pulitzer Prize finalist, in the feature photography category, for his work published in the Los Angeles Times, which documented the legacy of black sharecroppers who migrated to California’s San Joaquin Valley during the Depression. He was also named Time Magazine’s Instagram photographer of the year for his project, titled "The Geography of Poverty." Black is expanding this work, photographing America’s poorest places in 70 U.S. cities, towns, and rural communities.
Connections to National Standards
Common Core English Language Arts. W.9-10.3 and W.11-12.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies Standards. D2.Geo.2.9-12. Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions and their political, cultural, and economic dynamics.
Next Generation Science Standards. HS-LS2-8. Evaluate the evidence for the role of group behavior and individual and species' chances to survive and reproduce.