One-Third of Working Age Families in San Diego Can’t Make Ends Meet

by on February 3, 2017 · 0 comments

in Culture, Economy, History, Labor, Life Events, Politics, San Diego

Share of San Diego County families with incomes below Self-Sufficiency CPI

Latest data shows more than 1 million people living in families with incomes too low for expenses

Center on Policy Initiatives

A new report from the Center on Policy Initiatives finds that a third (33%) of all household in San Diego County have incomes below the level needed to cover basic living expenses.

Women and children are most impacted, largely because employed women throughout the county earn 74 cents for every $1 paid to men. Among households headed by single mothers, 69% have incomes below the bare-bones level known as the Self-Sufficiency Standard.

The report, Making Ends Meet, updates data last provided by CPI in 2014.

The federal poverty measure does not factor in the high costs of living in San Diego and fails to reflect an accurate picture of economic insecurity in San Diego. The Self-Sufficiency Standard is a more accurate measure of economic hardship because it includes county-specific costs such as housing, transportation, child care, food and taxes, for specific family types.

“When we calculate the actual costs to fully meet families’ basic needs, we find that fully a third of households in San Diego aren’t earning enough. This means that over a million people in San Diego are living in economic insecurity, are living on the edge and are worried about their next meal,” said CPI Research Director Peter Brownell.

The Self-Sufficiency budget, based on costs of essential items such as housing, food, and transportation, indicates that even a single adult with no children must earn $27,942 a year to get by without public or private assistance. That requires an hourly wage of at least $13.23 if the person works full-time all year.

The costs increase with each family member and differ with the age of children. As one example, a single adult with a preschooler and school-age child would need an hourly wage of $31.32 to cover the basics without assistance. For someone who can only find part-time work, the hourly wage would have to be higher.

“Almost half of all children in San Diego County live in households that can’t make ends meet. These stressors and instability impact students’ and children’s achievement and sense of security,” said Laurie Coskey, CEO of the United Way of San Diego County.

The percentage of households living below the Self-Sufficiency Standard dropped from 38% in the last Making Ends Meet report. “The data indicate that the improvement is due to growth of employment, although wages are still not keeping pace with costs,” Brownell said. In other words, more people are working, but are not earning enough to cover the high cost of living.

“There is a large misconception that people experiencing homelessness do not have jobs. With the cost of living rising astronomically and wages staying stagnant all it takes is one medical bill, one missed rent payment or one lay-off to place people at serious risk of being displaced,” said Anne Rios, Executive Director of Think Dignity, a non-profit organization focused on advancing the basic dignity for those living on the streets.

The study is available at

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