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California has two refundable income tax credits that boost the incomes of people who earn little from their jobs, helping them to afford necessities. These are:

  • The California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) – available to families and individuals with annual earnings under $30,000; and
  • The Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) – available to CalEITC-eligible families with children under age 6.

These credits reduce the amount of state income tax California families and individuals owe based on how much they earn from work and how many qualifying children they live with. Since these credits are refundable, people who qualify for a credit that exceeds the amount of income tax they owe can receive the balance as a tax refund. This means that families and individuals who do not owe any state income tax can get the full credit that they qualify for as a refund.

Two federal refundable income tax credits are also available to families and individuals who earn little from work. These are:

  • The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is a refundable credit available to families and individuals with low or moderate earnings from work; and
  • The federal Child Tax Credit (CTC), which is a partially refundable credit available to families with children under age 17 who have low, moderate, or high earnings from work.

This updated interactive tool estimates how much people can expect to receive from all four of these credits in tax year 2019 based on their tax filing status, number of children, and annual earnings from work. The additional chart below the interactive shows on a smaller scale the two credits that individuals without children may qualify for – the federal EITC and CalEITC.


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Making Ends Meet shines a light on the economic challenges faced by many Californians by showing the cost of supporting a family or a single individual in different parts of the state. This analysis presents basic family budgets for each of California’s 58 counties for four types of households: a single adult, a single-parent family, a two-parent family with one parent working, and a two-working-parent family. (All family types except single adult are assumed to have one preschool-aged child and one school-aged child.) These family budgets estimate the amount of income that households would need to cover basic expenses through earnings only, without publicly funded benefits or supports. Read the Making Ends Meet report, including methodology details.

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The data set for this analysis is available for download.


For decades, California took a “tough on crime” approach to criminal and juvenile justice. Harsh, one-size-fits-all sentencing policies such as the 1994 “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law emphasized punishment over rehabilitation and significantly lengthened prison sentences. These and other policies greatly increased the number of adults incarcerated by the state and contributed to the creation of a bloated and costly correctional system. This shift toward a “do the crime, do the time” philosophy also affected California youth involved with the juvenile justice system. In 2000, for example, the voters passed Proposition 21, which required more youth accused of crimes to be tried in adult court, among other changes.

In recent years, however, California has fundamentally reformed its approach to criminal and juvenile justice through legislation and at the ballot box. These reforms have aimed to reduce incarceration, promote more effective pathways to rehabilitation, prevent crime, and spend tax revenues more wisely. These policy changes largely stemmed from litigation against the state that prompted judicial intervention, with the most prominent example being the 2009 federal court order — subsequently upheld by the US Supreme Court — requiring California to reduce overcrowding in state prisons. Significant reforms include:

  • The California Community Corrections Performance Incentives Act (Senate Bill 678 of 2009). This legislation created financial incentives for counties to reduce the number of adult felony probationers sent to state prison, including by reducing recidivism through the use of “evidence-based” (scientifically proven) supervision practices.
  • Public safety realignment (Assembly 109 of 2011). The state transferred, or realigned, to counties the responsibility for managing and supervising adults convicted of certain “lower-level” felonies, effective October 1, 2011. (Previously, these individuals would have served state prison sentences and been released to state parole.) Counties receive constitutionally protected funding from the state each year to carry out these responsibilities.
  • Prop. 36 of 2012. This ballot initiative amended the state’s “three strikes” law to shorten prison sentences for many people who receive a third strike for a nonviolent, nonserious felony.
  • Prop. 47 of 2014. This ballot initiative reclassified certain drug and property crimes as misdemeanors, thus helping to reduce the number of adults incarcerated in state prisons as well as in county jails.
  • Prop. 57 of 2016. This ballot initiative established new policies to address overcrowding in state prisons. Specifically, the measure 1) created a new parole consideration process for state prisoners serving a sentence for a nonviolent felony offense and 2) gave state officials broad new authority to award sentencing credits to reduce the amount of time that people spend in prison. Prop. 57 also changed state law to require juvenile court judges to decide whether youth should be tried in adult court.

On the whole, these reforms have provided an opening for counties to reassess how they respond to crime as well as how they address incarceration — two key areas of county budgets. In an effort to highlight counties’ individual approaches in these areas, this analysis examines county spending on both incarceration and responding to crime for selected fiscal years from 1990-91 to 2015-16. This analysis includes four components: 1) an interactive tool below that shows inflation-adjusted expenditures as well as spending as a share of each county’s budget; 2) individual county Fact Sheets below that display the same spending data; 3) a downloadable Excel file that includes the full data set produced by this analysis; and 4) a Technical Appendix that describes the methodology.



Click below to get the Fact Sheet for your county.

Alameda Madera San Luis Obispo
Alpine Marin San Mateo
Amador Mariposa Santa Barbara
Butte Mendocino Santa Clara
Calaveras Merced Santa Cruz
Colusa Modoc Shasta
Contra Costa Mono Sierra
Del Norte Monterey Siskiyou
El Dorado Napa Solano
Fresno Nevada Sonoma
Glenn Orange Stanislaus
Humboldt Placer Sutter
Imperial Plumas Tehama
Inyo Riverside Trinity
Kern Sacramento Tulare
Kings San Benito Tuolumne
Lake San Bernardino Ventura
Lassen San Diego Yolo
Los Angeles San Joaquin Yuba

Note: The City and County of San Francisco is excluded from the analysis because the State Controller’s Office does not provide information for San Francisco that is comparable to the data reported for the state’s other 57 counties.

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