Poverty in San Diego: New Report


Jan 29, 2015 (San Diego) A new report from the National University System Center for Policy Research has found distressing information about San Diego. The overall economy has improved, but poverty rates have worsened.


This leads to problems and policy decisions, since this poverty Is no longer concentrated in the traditional urban core. We have pockets of deep poverty in the suburbs and more rural areas of the county, which also have less access to services.

According to the report:

There has been a marked increase in the number of county residents living in highly concentrated poverty in the suburbs. In the period covered by the 2010-2014 ACS, 49% of individuals living in highly-concentrated poverty lived outside of the City of San Diego. This is an increase from 2000, when only 36.5% of those living in concentrate poverty resided outside of the City of San Diego

This is critical, since most of the services in the county are in the city of San Diego, making serving these communities that much harder.

So why should you care? Areas of concentrated poverty do cost the taxpayer in the end. These are the main reasons why?

  • Lower performing schools. Over the course of a lifetime this means less earning potential.
  • Higher crime rates and lower health outcomes. These are so dramatic that life expectancy can vary from one zip code to the next.
  • Constraints on wealth building. Homes in these areas tend to accrue value at a far slower rate.
  • Reduced private investment\ increased cost of goods and services. Common to these areas are food deserts for example.
  • Increased cost for local government to serve these locations: For example safety services are far more expensive to provide, and even basic services like roads.

The areas of concentrated poverty are found south of Interstate 8, and the cities of El Cajon and Escondido. These poverty rates lead to a cycle of less tax income for the cities, and less ability to provide services.

201-2014 American Community Survey. Census Tracts with Greater than 40% of Population below Federal Poverty Line


Figure 2
Census Tracts with Greater than 20% of Population below Federal Poverty Line: 2010-2014


We also know that poverty is directly correlated to the types of jobs available. This is a good example from the study:

There are important similarities among these neighborhoods. While public transit is more important in these neighborhoods most residents in these neighborhoods (62.6%) continue to drive alone to work. Labor participation is generally on par with the county as a whole (61% vs. 65%). This suggests that poverty in San Diego is much more related to the prevalence of low wage work rather than disassociation from the workforce. Educational attainment in these neighborhoods tends to be lower than the rest of the county, outside of the notable exception of East Village which reflects the gentrification that has occurred in that neighborhood over the past decade.

According to the study this is also happening:

Poverty rates increased by more than 2% in nine of the region’s cities. Indeed, the increase in the poverty rate in the City of San Diego was among the lowest in the region. Cities such as Escondido, El Cajon, Carlsbad, and Lemon Grove saw increases in poverty which exceeded the overall increase seen in the county.

With increased gentrification in areas such as City Heights and North Park these trends should continue. The center also recommended affordable housing as part of the prescriptions to fight this crisis. They also recommend more transit and access to it. While the paper does not mention it, the Center for Policy Initiatives and others have also suggested higher rates of wage pay, and the creation of jobs in the middle of the pay scale.






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