A new study released this morning (March 6), reveals that 38% of San Diego County's working-age households can't afford a no-frills lifestyle without public or private assistance.
Even in households with someone working full-time, 23.5% have incomes too low to meet San Diego's high cost of living. This may seem shocking, but it is in line with similar previous studies.
The study was released by the Center on Policy Initiatives and Insight Center for Economic Development. The study was funded by United Way of San Diego County and the Leichtag Foundation.
The self-sufficiency standard (how much annual income is needed) for one adult is $27,655. For one adult and a preschooler it is $53,580. For two adults and an infant it's $62,277 and for two adults, an infant and a preschooler it's $84,739. According to U.S. Census Bureau data for 2011, San Diego County's median household income was $63,857 and median family income $74,633.
In cost-of-living surveys taken through the years, San Diego generally ranks among the most expensive metro areas, while income is moderately higher than the nation's. San Diegans are said to live on "psychic income" or pay the "sunshine tax" for the privilege of living in great weather all year.
The study notes that the lack of sufficient income drives down spending — one reason that retail sales have been anemic in recent years. Also, many families double up on housing and go without basic services, from childcare to car repairs.
The Great Recession hit San Diego: in (mostly) pre-recession 2007, 30% of households lived below the self-sufficiency standard. That has grown to 38%.