San Diego Economic Equity Report

A new report commissioned by San Diego Foundation and researched and written by the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center, found that one in 10 San Diegans live in poverty, including 86,000 children, due to a lack of self-sufficient wages and the high cost of housing, utilities, transportation and food in the region.  

“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, Ph.D., 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.”  

The San Diego Economic Equity Report analyzed data from a variety of national and regional sources to zero in on the region’s greatest disparities, from housing and education to health care and life expectancy. Among the findings:

  • Wages and Housing Affordability: Nearly 35% of San Diego County residents struggle to make self-sufficient wages.
    - 38% spend more than the recommended maximum of 30% of their income on housing.
    - Twice as many Latino/a San Diegans live below the self-sufficiency wage as their White neighbors.
  • Poverty: Approximately 335,000 San Diegans (11%), live below the federal poverty line ($24,860 or less annually for a family of four), including nearly 86,000 children – enough to fill PETCO Park twice.
    - San Diego County’s total poverty figure surpasses the entire population of 93% of all other U.S. counties.
  • Higher Education and the Skilled Worker Gap: Latinos/as make up 42% of the population between 18 and 24 but comprise 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.
  • Health Equity: The average Black San Diegan is expected to live to 75, five years less than the average White San Diegan.
  • Immigration: San Diego County has the ninth highest immigrant population among U.S. counties; nearly 91,000 immigrants in San Diego County live in poverty – more than 4.5 times the population of Coronado.

In the report, researchers reviewed economic need in San Diego County, and focused on areas of inequality. The report will be used to demonstrate need and attract state and national funding to the region.  

Data sources for this report include the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey; the California Department of Education; the County of San Diego’s Maternal, Child, and Family Health Services; the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency; and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, among others. Funding for the report was provided by San Diego Foundation.