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30% are economically challenged; 17% of region’s children live below federal poverty line

East County News Service

September 29, 2010 (San Diego) -- More than 100,000 San Diego County residents fell from the middle class into poverty or severe economic hardship in the past two years.  The County's highest poverty rate (22.4%) is in El Cajon.  


Meanwhile, the highest-earning fifth of households countywide continued to receive almost half of all income generated in the County, while the lowest fifth got only 4% of the pie.


That's the grim picture in Center for Policy Initiatives’ (CPI) county-specific 2009 US Census survey data released yesterday. CPI’s four-page report, with links to media coverage, is available at bit.ly/CPI-poverty09.

Low wages, as well as unemployment, have left many families impoverished. Among the very poorest -- those below the federal poverty limit (FPL) -- 43% of adults were working. Nearly 200,000 full-time, year-round workers were paid less than $25,000 in 2009.


The county's poverty rate rose to 12.6% in 2009 -- from 11.1% in 2007, before the recession. The rate was 14.3% for the city of San Diego. Almost 890,000 county residents -- 30% of the population -- were living in poverty or economic hardship (incomes less than double the FPL) in 2009.


"The increase in poverty means hard-working people have watched their dreams slip away," said Murtaza Baxamusa, CPI Deputy Director. "People who work here should be able to afford to live in San Diego. It is crucial that governments at all levels do whatever they can to create good, middle-class jobs."

Sandra Leslie worked as an insurance agent for 10 years, but sank abruptly into poverty when she was laid off a few months ago. Leslie said she and her two daughters have to move out of their apartment on Friday because they can no longer afford the $1200 rent. She has gone back to school to try to improve her employment chances.

"It's really hard," she said. "I'm basically looking for someone to stay with, just one bedroom for me and my kids."

Of the 374,000 county residents living below the federal poverty line, more than 121,000 were children -- a staggering 17% childhood poverty rate.


The federal poverty threshold in 2009 was $10,956 for an individual, $21,954 for a family of four, and so on up to $44,366 for nine or more people. Recognizing that those levels are unrealistically low, especially in high-cost cities like San Diego, the Census Bureau also reports how many people live below double the poverty line.


In 2009, almost 890,000 San Diego County residents -- 30% of the population -- lived below the 200% FPL level. For a family of four, that's a total household income of less than $43,908.


In addition to low earnings, more than 209,000 working-age people in San Diego County had no health coverage of any kind.

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