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September 2011

San Diego: Home of the working poor

Poverty grew dramatically in San Diego County in 2010. CPI’s analysis of US Census Bureau poverty and income data shows that more than 1 million people in the county are struggling with economic hardship, including many who have jobs.
Children have been especially hard-hit: Nearly 1 in five children (19.2%) in the county lived below the federal poverty level in 2010, compared to 16.8% the year before.

Fully a third of San Diego County’s population – more than 1 million people – lived in economic hardship, or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Almost half of them were in deepest poverty, with incomes below the FPL, which varies by family size and – at about $22,300 for a family of four – is acknowledged to undercount true poverty.

CPI’s findings include:

  • San Diego County’s poverty rate rose to 14.8% – up from 12.6%  in 2009. There were 446,060 people in the county living below the official poverty line, 72,401 more than the previous year.
  • Almost 25,000 full-time workers earned below-poverty incomes. Another 97,000 adults worked part-time and lived in poverty.
  • El Cajon had the county’s highest poverty rate: 29.7%.   The biggest growth in poverty was in Escondido, with a rate of 20.5% surpassing the City of San Diego’s 17.4%.
  • Poverty rates for African Americans and Latinos remain almost double that of whites, but the white households had the largest decrease in median income in 2010, a drop of 11%.
  • Income inequality grew, with the top 20% of households taking 49.2% of all income in the region.

The official poverty rates tell only part of the story, because the federal poverty line is set so low. Especially given San Diego’s high cost of living, the more realistic measure of economic hardship is double the poverty level. The data from 2010 paint a shockingly grim picture for San Diego County.

Job creation alone won’t solve the problem, unless the jobs created pay good, middle-class wages and provide health coverage.

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