California Lab


Developing and testing new measurement tools and interventions in a state that’s committed to bold approaches to taking on poverty, inequality, and homelessness


With nearly 40 million residents, California is home to almost 1 in 8 Americans. The state has an ethnic, racial, and immigrant makeup that is unusually diverse, spread across economically and demographically diverse regions. Although California is an economic powerhouse, it consistently ranks as extremely high in poverty, inequality, and homelessness among U.S. states. At the same time, state and local policymakers have committed to building, piloting, and scaling a range of innovative policies and programs that aim to reduce poverty and inequality. As a result, the state has become a key national laboratory for testing new solutions to pressing problems.

CPI’s California Lab is dedicated to facilitating these efforts in collaboration with state and county governments and nonprofit and community leaders. CPI’s work in this area includes:

  • The California Poverty Measure (CPM) – This state-specific index of poverty, modeled on the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, is jointly produced by CPI and the Public Policy Institute of California. CPI is also currently developing a second-generation measure of poverty that uses linked administrative data to measure poverty at a higher resolution, enabling research to understand how households combine different types of income and public supports to meet their basic needs, to identify gaps in the social safety net, and to test the effects of policy on poverty.
  • Policy Blueprints – CPI has developed comprehensive recommendations for evidence-based policy strategies that combine upstream (“predistributive”) and downstream (“redistributive”) approaches to addressing poverty and inequality to build a genuinely inclusive economy.
  • California Data Dashboard – This online tool, currently in development, will allow state and local stakeholders to track California’s successes and failures in building an inclusive economy across diverse domains.
  • Subsidized Employment Lab – In partnership with several California counties, CPI is analyzing the impact of subsidized employment programs and identifying opportunities to improve their reach and effectiveness.

CPI Collaborators

Sarah Bohn's picture Sarah Bohn Vice President; Director of the Economic Policy Center; Senior Fellow; John and Louise Bryson Chair in Policy Research
Public Policy Institute of California
Caroline Danielson's picture Caroline Danielson Interim Vice President of Research; Senior Fellow
Public Policy Institute of California
Patricia Malagon's picture Patricia Malagon Research Associate
Public Policy Institute of California
Christopher Wimer's picture Christopher Wimer Director, Center on Poverty and Social Policy
Columbia University