Report Says Around 335,000 San Diegans Live in Poverty, 11% of County

A street in City Heights
The street corner in City Heights, which has among the highest proportion of residents living below the poverty line in San Diego. Megan Wood /inewsource

Nearly 11% of all San Diegans, including 86,000 children, live in poverty due to the high cost of living and lack of correlated high wages, a report released Wednesday found.

The report, commissioned by San Diego Foundation and developed in partnership with the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center, found that nearly 35% of county residents struggle to make “self-sufficient wages.”

“San Diego is a beautiful, diverse region, but not all residents experience the same quality of life, and the sobering data revealed in our report confirms that,” said Mark Stuart, president and CEO of San Diego Foundation. “This report helps us better understand the needs of San Diegans to attract more resources for just, equitable and resilient communities.”

A total of 38% of county residents spend more than the recommended maximum of 30% of their income on housing, according to the report.

Twice as many Latino and Latina San Diegans live below the self- sufficiency wage as their white neighbors, the report found. That group make up 42% of the population between 18 and 24 but comprises only 37% of people who have at least started college in that age group.

“While this is only a 5% difference, due to Latinos/as comprising the largest minority group in San Diego County it is equivalent to thousands who will not have the bachelor’s degrees needed to address the local skilled worker gap,” the foundation said.

Around 335,000 San Diegans — about 11% — live below the federal poverty line of $24,860 or less annually for a family of four. The county’s poverty numbers surpass the entire population of 93% of all other U.S. counties.

“San Diego ranks amongst one of the costliest metropolitan areas in the country, but contrary to popular belief, San Diego’s population is not free of economic hardship,” said Daniel Enemark, chief economist with the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center. “Distinct inequalities are evident across the board. Unfortunately, poverty, limited access to higher education, insufficient wages, and lack of homeownership are more common in the county than expected.”

According to the report, San Diego County has the ninth highest immigrant population among U.S. counties and nearly 91,000 immigrants in San Diego County live in poverty.

Additionally, the average Black or Asian San Diegan is expected to live to 75, five years less than the average white San Diegan.

“This past year, San Diego Foundation and its donors had record health and human service-oriented grantmaking to local nonprofits that address cost of living issues, like emergency food and shelter, youth and child development programs and workforce training,” said Pamela Gray Payton, chief impact and partnerships officer at San Diego Foundation. “Our nonprofit partners are working hard to meet our region’s needs, but more government funding and philanthropic resources are needed to address the disparity and inequity throughout San Diego County.”

–City News Service