October 25, 2023 – San Diego, CA – A new report commissioned by San Diego Foundation and developed in partnership with the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center, found that one in 10 San Diegans live in poverty, including 86,000 children, due to a lack of self-sufficient wages and the high cost of housing, utilities, transportation and food in the region.

“San Diego is a beautiful, diverse region, but not all residents experience the same quality of life, and the sobering data revealed in our report confirms that,” said Mark Stuart, President and CEO of San Diego Foundation. “This report helps us better understand the needs of San Diegans to attract more resources for just, equitable and resilient communities.”

The San Diego Foundation Economic Equity Report analyzed data from a variety of national and regional sources to zero in on the region’s greatest disparities, from housing and education to health care and life expectancy. Among the findings:

  • Wages and Housing Affordability: Nearly 35% of San Diego County residents struggle to make self-sufficient wages.
    • 38% spend more than the recommended maximum of 30% of their income on housing.
    • Twice as many Latino/a San Diegans live below the self-sufficiency wage as their White neighbors.
  • Poverty: Approximately 335,000 San Diegans (11%), live below the federal poverty line ($24,860 or less annually for a family of four), including nearly 86,000 children – enough to fill PETCO Park twice.
    • San Diego County’s total poverty figure surpasses the entire population of 93% of all other U.S. counties.
  • Higher Education and the Skilled Worker Gap: Latinos/as make up 42% of the population between 18 and 24 but comprise only 37% of people who have at least started college in that age group.
    • While this is only a 5% difference, due to Latinos/as comprising the largest minority group in San Diego County it is equivalent to thousands who will not have the bachelor’s degrees needed to address the local skilled worker gap.
  • Health Equity: The average Black San Diegan is expected to live to 75, five years less than the average White San Diegan.
  • Immigration: San Diego County has the ninth highest immigrant population among U.S. counties; nearly 91,000 immigrants in San Diego County live in poverty – more than 4.5 times the population of Coronado.

“San Diego ranks amongst one of the costliest metropolitan areas in the country, but contrary to popular belief, San Diego’s population is not free of economic hardship,” said Daniel Enemark, Ph.D., Chief Economist with the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center. “Distinct inequalities are evident across the board. Unfortunately, poverty, limited access to higher education, insufficient wages, and lack of homeownership are more common in the county than expected.”

In the report, researchers reviewed economic need in San Diego County, and focused on areas of inequality. The report will be used to demonstrate need and attract state and national funding to the region.

“This past year, San Diego Foundation and its donors had record health and human service-oriented grantmaking to local nonprofits that address cost of living issues, like emergency food and shelter, youth and child development programs, and workforce training,” said Pamela Gray Payton, Chief Impact & Partnerships Officer at San Diego Foundation. “Our nonprofit partners are working hard to meet our region’s needs, but more government funding and philanthropic resources are needed to address the disparity and inequity throughout San Diego County.”

Public data sources for this report include the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey; the California Department of Education; the County of San Diego’s Maternal, Child, and Family Health Services; the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency; and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, among others. Funding for the report was provided by San Diego Foundation.

To read the report in its entirety, visit SDFoundation.org/EconomicEquity. To give to SDF and help close San Diego’s economic equity gaps, visit SDFoundation.org/Give.

About San Diego Foundation

San Diego Foundation inspires enduring philanthropy and enables community solutions to improve the quality of life in our region. Our strategic priorities include advancing racial and social justice, fostering equity of opportunity, building resilient communities, and delivering world-class philanthropy to realize our vision of just, equitable and resilient communities. For more than 48 years, SDF and its donors have granted $1.7 billion to support nonprofit organizations strengthening our community. Learn more at SDFoundation.org.

About San Diego Regional Policy and Innovation Center (PIC)

The San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center (PIC) is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists to conduct research and policy analysis and help solve the region’s biggest problems. Its founding partners include San Diego Foundation, County of San Diego, and the world’s leading think tank – The Brookings Institution. Over the next few years, PIC will continue building strong and diverse partnerships among the leaders of the region; use equity-centered research to identify the region’s biggest needs, and the best opportunities for change, and secure funding for potential solutions; challenge systemic inequities; and develop a pipeline of potential scalable projects and pilots that improve the lives of San Diegans. For more information, visit sdrpic.org.

San Diego Foundation b-roll:


Lorena Nava Ruggero, lruggero@sdfoundation.org, 619-814-1365
Mike Peterson, Mixte Communications, mike@gomixte.com, 619-732-0789 x 645
Sandy Young, J. Walcher Communications, sandy@jwalcher.com, 619-295-7140