March 2014

Full-time pay falls short of basic expenses for many San Diego County households

Study finds 38% of working-age households have incomes too low for the cost of living

The cost of a basic, no-frills lifestyle without public or private assistance is beyond the reach of 38% of all working age households in San Diego County, this new study shows.

Making Ends Meet 2014 quantifies a harsh financial reality faced by many San Diegans who live on incomes above the official poverty measures, but below self-sufficiency. The report’s demographic analysis is based on the Self-Sufficiency Standard, a more accurate measure of economic hardship than the Federal Poverty Thresholds because it includes county-specific costs such as housing, transportation, child care, food and taxes, for specific family types.

Key Findings Include:

  • More than 300,000 households in our county are living with incomes too low to meet the most basic expenses. 83% of them have at least one person working.
  • Even with someone working full-time year-round, or with multiple part-time earners, about 1 in 4 households in the region have incomes too low to cover the basic costs of living.
  • More than half of employees in the region’s tourism industry live with insufficient income.
  • The tourism industry – including hotels, restaurants and amusements – has the largest number of employees with incomes below the Self-Sufficiency Standard, second only to farming in the percentage below that level.
  • The lack of sufficient income drives down spending in the local economy as many families double up on housing and go without services ranging from childcare to car repairs.

The data demonstrate that the Great Recession continues for many San Diegans. The share of households living below the Self-Sufficiency Standard has grown from 30% in pre-recession 2007 to 38% in 2012, the most recent year for which all data are available. That’s an increase of 71,472 households struggling to get by.

 Download the report here.