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The non-profit Center on Policy Initiatives has released “San Diego: Home of the Working Poor,” a report that paints a rather dim picture on the state of the region. The report analyzes data provided by the US Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, with 2010 survey results being the most recent available.

Data shows that 446,000 people in the county live at or below the poverty line, including about 137,300 children. Overall, these number represent an increase of 72,400 people as compared to 2009 data. 25,000 adults working full-time jobs are still officially considered poor. The federal poverty level, the government’s threshold for being considered poor, is set nationwide (except in Alaska and Hawaii) at $10,890 annual income for an individual, with an extra $3,820 allowance for each additional family member. So, for example, a family of four is not considered to be living in poverty if they have income in excess of $22,350.

Poverty rates in the city of San Diego were at 17.4% overall. This was higher than the 14.8% county average, but still below Escondido at 20.5% and El Cajon, with a whopping 29.7% of its inhabitants (and 36.5% of its children) surviving on poverty-level wages.

Those living in “economic hardship,” defined as having income less than twice that of the federal poverty level guidelines, totaled over 1,006,000 countywide, or 34% of the total population.

While the members of the lower class are rising, income inequality continues to create a wider gulf between the haves and have-nots. In 2010 the wealthiest 20% of San Diegans controlled 49.2% of the region’s total income, with the lowest-earning 20% dividing 3.4% of the money.

San Diego’s Gini coefficient, which measures the equality of income distribution in a given area, was measured at 45.8%. The Center on Policy Initiatives report contrasts this to rates such as 44% in Uganda and 37% in Indonesia, indicating these countries have less disparity in income.

A breakdown of income by race comparing median family incomes in 2010 and 2007 shows that Whites have fallen the farthest, with median income levels sinking 10.9%. But with a median income of $65,992, they still fare better than Blacks, earning $46,685, or Hispanics making $44,793. Asians continue to be the highest earners, with half of households in this group bringing in $75,865 or more.

"These data paint a stark picture," said Corinne Wilson, CPI research and policy lead. "The recession is far from over. For many families it is getting much worse, whether they're working or trying to find work."

The report stresses that since San Diego has a much higher cost of living than most areas in the country, poverty statistics tend to understate the true magnitude of financial difficulties in the area. Full text of the report, with various charts, is available here.

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