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September 2009

Census data show that the County’s official poverty rate rose in 2008 from 11.1% to 12.6%, the highest level on record in the past 50 years. That means 46,000 more people fell below the federal poverty level, subsisting on less than $10,991 for an individual or $21,834 for a family of two adults with two children.

The Census Bureau also reports that 850,000 county residents — 29% of the population — were living below double the federal level. Given San Diego’s high cost of living, CPI considers that income level “economic hardship.”

The number of people without health insurance were counted for the first time in 2008. More than 500,000 people in San Diego County have no health coverage at all, including 1 out of every 5 working-age adults.

Working-age San Diegans also have reason to complain about their paychecks. Historically, median earnings either increase or, in bad years, stay flat. In 2008, median earnings for San Diego workers actually decreased by 3.51%.

“The problem is not only the increase in unemployment, but a growth in working poverty as more people have had their hours cut to part-time,” said CPI Director of Research and Policy Murtaza Baxamusa. “Nearly a third of our county population is now struggling to make ends meet under severe economic distress.The stark increase in poverty in our region underlines the need for public policies that create not just any jobs, but good jobs with pathways to stable careers.”

The newly released Census report includes only 2008 data, so the full effects of the recession on working families haven’t been measured.