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Inequity burdens families

On Oct. 25, the San Diego Foundation released its new report which provided a snapshot of economic inequities and poverty in San Diego County.

The San Diego Economic Report, developed in partnership with the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center included key data on housing, poverty, education, health equity, and immigration. By commissioning this report, the SD Foundation hopes to identify areas of need, secure national funding, and encourage philanthropic giving to those most affected by economic inequity.

San Diego Foundation Chief Impact and Partnership Officer Vice President Pamela Gray Payton said the sobering information in the report reflects the inequities in the region.

“Distinct inequalities are evident, and across the board with poverty, limited access to higher education, insufficient wages, and lack of home ownership, were more common in the county than expected” she said.

San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center Chief Economist Dr. Daniel Enemark said the needs in San Diego County has four parts.

“San Diego County is really large,” he said. “One percent of all Americans live in San Diego County, so there is a tremendous number of people struggling in poverty with 335,000 people living below the poverty line, surpassing the populations of 93% of all other U.S. counties. The second thing, poverty hits people different in San Diego County because it is so expensive to live here. Third, our resources are unequally distributed, and fourth, we have this unique wonderful immigrant community that faces their own unique challenges in a frankly, extremely challenged system.”

Other figures in the report show that 407,258 households, or 35% of county residents do not make a self-sufficient wage, and 85,956 children live in poverty in the region, enough to fill Petco Park twice.

Enemark said that most people do not understand how challenging housing is in the area.

“San Diego is by some measures the least affordable metro in America,” he said. “Though our wages are not much higher than the national average, our housing prices are astronomical.”

Enemark said housing burdened households are measured in two ways.

“Either you are doing okay because you are spending 30% or less of your income on housing, or you are cost-burdened which is 30-50%, or you are extremely cost-burdened, which is over half your income is going to housing. More than 30% of San Diegans are cost burdened. That is 1.2 million people. Over half of Black San Diegans are spending more than 30% of their income on housing, and over 17% of residents are paying more than half their income on housing. House burdened households are unequally distributed,” adding that across all metrics, each one shows significant disparities along race and ethnicity.

Enemark said most people do not realize that with the national poverty level, a family of four poverty line is $30,000 per year, which is unimaginable to live on in San Diego County with over a third of county residents living below a self-sufficiency wage, which is just enough income to get by, adding that is the starkest figure of all the findings.

“Every child has the right to have their basic needs met, yet 86,000 children in San Diego County live in households well below the federal poverty line,” he said.

Enemark said education is another area with massive disparities. The report found that more than 16,000 K-12 students in the region are unhoused.

Latinos make up 42% of the population in the region between 18 and 24, but only 37% have at least started college, and only 22% of 24–25-year-old people who have completed a college degree are Latino.

“You see that our native families are so much more likely to be experiencing children who are unhoused,” he said. “You see how unequally distributed these numbers are. When you see how large these populations are it is an unacceptable number of people living in this impossible circumstance. With only 37% having started college, that is a really big problem because unless our demographic trends change dramatically, very soon Latinos will be the largest single group in our labor force.”

Enemark said if nothing changes, as a region, we will not be able to train high-skilled laborers in the region for the businesses that need them. He said the lack of Latinos graduating college, we are unable to provide the talent needed to grow our local economy over time.

Enemark said health said no one should face health inequity.

“But there are over 200,000 people without health insurance in San Diego County,” he said. “Like every other metric we looked at, there are dramatic disparities along race and ethnicity.”

Enemark said the report shows that babies born to Black parents in the region are more than twice likely to be underweight than those born to white parents, and that Latino residents are four times as likely to have no health insurance than white San Diegans.

Enemark said the region has an incredible immigrant population who are “at the heart” of our culture.

“Over a quarter of our residents live in immigrant households,” he said. “San Diego County has the ninth largest population of immigrants of any county in America. Those immigrants contribute to our tax base. They contribute $2.7 billion in federal taxes and $946.3 million in state and local taxes. They make incredible contributions, and yet, they are 13% more likely to live in poverty than U.S. born San Diegans. Nearly 91,000 immigrants in San Deigo County live in poverty.”

“These are some of the challenges we face,” continued Enemark. “I cannot express enough my gratitude to the San Diego Foundation for identifying and prioritizing these findings so that we can work together on them.”

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