For Immediate Release

September 19, 2013


Susan Duerksen, (619) 584-5744 x64,

Economic recovery misses most households and employees in San Diego region

New Census data for San Diego County show persistent poverty, lower real wages

Economic recovery has bypassed most households in San Diego County, according to an analysis by the Center on Policy Initiatives of 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data released today.

A growing number of people in the region – including many who are employed – remained mired in poverty five years after the recession began. More children have slipped into poverty. And middle-class families have lost buying power as median household income across the county continued to drop.

“People have less money to spend, even those working full-time,” said CPI Research Director Peter Brownell. “The wealthiest saw their incomes increase in 2012, but when we hear talk of economic recovery, it hasn’t reached most people in our region.”

The CPI analysis of the regional data is available at

Key Findings:

  • While the top-earning 20% of households took in half of all income in the region, real median income for all households fell by $1,231 from the previous year.
  • More than a quarter (28.4%) of all individuals working full-time, year-round earned less than $30,000, roughly the amount needed for a single person to live self-sufficiently in San Diego County. More than 123,000 full-time or part-time employees fell below the federal poverty level ($11,945 a year for an individual).
  • The poverty rate in the county was virtually unchanged at 15% (from 15.1% in 2011), much higher than the pre-recession level of 11.1%. The rate of children living in poverty jumped to 19.8%.
  • Besides children, groups hit hardest by poverty – with rates of 20% or higher – included African Americans, Latinos, and the cities of El Cajon, San Marcos and Escondido.
  •  More than 1 million San Diego County residents, a third of the population, lived in economic hardship, at or below double the poverty rate. That measure is used because the federal poverty level, which varies by family size, is unrealistically low compared to costs of living.

“Clearly, the economy can’t recover for most people until wages are high enough that our neighbors can support themselves and spend money in the local community,” Brownell said. “Poverty and low wages drag down the entire region, as these data show. The recent vote to increase California’s minimum wage to $10 an hour is a welcome first step, but too little and too slow. ”

For interviews or printed copies of the 4-page report, contact Susan Duerksen,