By Miriam Raftery
October 4, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) – When we launched East County Magazine in 2008, we published a story on the high rate of poverty in El Cajon, which was then 20.6%. Today, it’s soared 50%, to 29.7%--by far the highest of any city in our county. But a growing number of individuals and families throughout the San Diego region are falling into poverty, with children being especially hard-hit, according to new Census data recently released.
Countywide, the poverty rate grew to 14.8% in 2010, up from 12.6% in 2009. More than one in ten children (11.6%) are living in poverty locally.
Statewide, the poverty rate is 13%, while nationally it is 15.1%--with the highest number of people in poverty (46.2 million) since the Census began tracking poverty 52 years ago. Even more alarming, 22% of children under 18 are being raised in households below the poverty line.
Among other local cities, rates ranged from a low of 8.4% in Chula Vista to 20.5% in Escondido; the City of San Diego measured 17.4%.
Even many people living above federal poverty levels are struggling to survive in areas such as San Diego, where living costs are higher than the national average. A better measurement, experts say, is the proportion of residents who fall below 200% of the national poverty level, earning $44,700 a year or less for a family of four. In San Diego County, a staggering 34% fall below that level—up from 30% just one year earlier.
“The recession is far from over,” Corrine Wilson, research and policy leader at the Center on Policy Initiatives in San Diego, after analyzing the Census data. Wilson said the data paints a “stark picture” adding, “For many families it is getting much worse, whether they’re working or trying to find work.”
Poverty rates for African Americans and Latinos locally have poverty rates of 20.6% and 20.9% , nearly double the 10.95 rate for whites and Asians. However whites had the biggest drop in media income in 2010, falling 11%.
“It’s clear that things aren’t getting better,” said Corinne Wilson, who oversees research and policy for the Center on Policy Initiatives in San Diego. “People need to get back to work in middle-class jobs that allow them to not just stay out of poverty, but to pay their mortgages, pay their bills and have health care.”
Many of those living in poverty are working – including 25,000 people working part time and 93,000 working full-time. Countywide, over 17% of all San Diego County residents have no healthcare coverage.
“Job creation alone won’t solve the problem, if industries are allowed to create more poverty jobs,” a CPI report concluded. “Like the rest of the country, the San Diego region needs more quality jobs with living wages and health coverage.”