Making Ends Meet: A New Study on Self-Sufficiency in San Diego

Leichtag Foundation co-funded the Making Ends Meet report with United Way to draw attention to the fact that reducing poverty and economic hardship requires more than just helping people find jobs.

Since the recession began in 2008, the Leichtag Foundation has invested over $10 million dollars in North San Diego County programs that help advance people’s self-sufficiency.

The common perception is that the solution to getting out of poverty is simply being motivated to get a job.  What we’ve seen, though, is that people want to work and provide for their families.  And there are excellent programs countywide to help people find jobs.  The problem is…these jobs don’t pay the bills.
A single mother making $12/hour doesn’t qualify for public assistance for food, healthcare or childcare – yet, as the report shows, she doesn’t make nearly enough to cover those costs on her own.   The Leichtag Foundation and United Way funded the update of the Making Ends Meet report to measure how many people in San Diego County currently fall into this situation.
We hope this study will draw attention to the fact that helping people achieve self-sufficiency is more than just helping them find jobs.  We must address the issue of livable wages.
Until employers pay a livable wage, we’ll continue to fight a losing battle in the War Against Poverty.
-Anahid Brakke
Program Director for Self-Sufficiency
Leichtag Foundation

From Center on Policy Initiatives:

Study finds 38% of working-age households have incomes too low for the cost of living

The cost of a basic, no-frills lifestyle without public or private assistance is beyond the reach of 38% of all working age households in San Diego County, this new study shows.
Making Ends Meet 2014 quantifies a harsh financial reality faced by many San Diegans who live on incomes above the official poverty measures, but below self-sufficiency. The report’s demographic analysis is based on the Self-Sufficiency Standard, a more accurate measure of economic hardship than the Federal Poverty Thresholds because it includes county-specific costs such as housing, transportation, child care, food and taxes, for specific family types.

Key Findings Include:

  • More than 300,000 households in our county are living with incomes too low to meet the most basic expenses. 83% of them have at least one person working.
  • Even with someone working full-time year-round, or with multiple part-time earners, about 1 in 4 households in the region have incomes too low to cover the basic costs of living.
  • More than half of employees in the region’s tourism industry live with insufficient income.
  • The tourism industry – including hotels, restaurants and amusements – has the largest number of employees with incomes below the Self-Sufficiency Standard, second only to farming in the percentage below that level.
  • The lack of sufficient income drives down spending in the local economy as many families double up on housing and go without services ranging from childcare to car repairs.

The data demonstrate that the Great Recession continues for many San Diegans. The share of households living below the Self-Sufficiency Standard has grown from 30% in pre-recession 2007 to 38% in 2012, the most recent year for which all data are available. That’s an increase of 71,472 households struggling to get by.

 Download the report here.