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The Economic Conditions of County District 4

D4 poverty rate map

Data in this report uses the US Census Bureau 2021 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. These estimates provide the most recent Census data for the district. 2022 5-year estimates will be released in December 2023. All dollar amounts are adjusted to 2022 dollars. 

Key Findings

Almost 1 in 7 people in District 4 lived in severe poverty in 2021.
1 in 5 (20%) children lived under the federal poverty threshold, which is $27,740 for a family of 4.
Black people in District 4 had the lowest median income of any racial or ethnic group.
More than half of District 4 households were rent burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on rent. Even more stark, 90% of households living with incomes under $50,000 were rent burdened.
Four of the ten largest industries employing District 4 residents were not paying enough for workers to make ends meet in the region.

What Are Supervisorial Districts?

San Diego County is divided into 5 districts and each district is represented by an elected official. The five elected officials make up the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors are like city council members or members of Congress, but they make policies for County government. Each Supervisor is eligible to serve for two terms, with each term lasting four years. District boundaries are redrawn every 10 years after the Census. During this process an independent redistricting committee draws the boundaries based on feedback from county residents. Each of the five districts are legally required to contain a similar number of residents. Supervisorial District 4’s approximately 703,539 residents make up a little bit more than 21% of San Diego’s total population. In 2023 the Board of Supervisors controlled a budget of over $8.1 billion dollars. They create and maintain programs and services for the almost 3.3 million people in San Diego County.

district 4 demographics

We found that in 2021, no single racial group was a majority in District 4. District 4 had the greatest concentration of Black residents in San Diego County. Black people made up 9.3% of the people in District 4, while making up only 4.5% of the County population overall. This also means that 44%, or almost half of the County’s Black population lived in District 4 in 2021, a much higher concentration of Black residents than any other supervisorial district.

About the census & race

Understanding racial diversity is a complicated task using Census data because the US government does not treat Latinx identities as races, even though many people who identify as Latinx may not feel that they neatly fit into the Census categories. The Census asks people to identify their race by choosing from “Black”, “White,” “Asian,” “Native American” and “Other.” People may select more than one of these categories and when they do, the Census Bureau codes them under the “Two or More Races” designation. Separately, the Census Bureau asks respondents about whether they are of “Hispanic” origin. In the data we are able to access for this report, the Census also provides a count of the White population excluding those who answered that they were “White” and of “Hispanic origin” and reports those respondents in the “Hispanic” or Latinx of any race category.

It’s important to note that the White category also includes people with heritage in the Middle East and North Africa who may not consider themselves or experience their lives as racially White in the United States. There is an active campaign among some people of Middle Eastern and North African heritage for the Census to create a new MENA racial category.

Additionally, the Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander categories are broad categories that include people from diverse geographies and widely different patterns of migration to the US and thus hide the differing economic situations across groups. See our 2015 Household Income and Economic Hardship among Asian and Pacific Islander Groups in San Diego County report.

poverty thresholds understate who's struggling in san diego county

This section of the report describes how many severely poor people lived in District 4 and who makes up this population. The US government defines poverty according to the total income of a person’s household. Households can be one person or several people whether related or unrelated. Income is not just how much people are paid for work, which usually includes wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, and tips. Income can also include money from retirement, disability payments, interest, dividends, rental income, unemployment, and any cash public assistance. We use estimates of how many people are living below the US Federal Poverty Threshold for their household size to estimate how many people are living in severe poverty. While the federal poverty thresholds (see Table 2) change depending on the size of a household, these thresholds do not change depending on an area’s cost of living. Using the data publicly available at the census tract level only describes people who are destitute and living in severe poverty. This significantly underrepresents the total number of people and families that are struggling to live in District 4 and San Diego County overall.

For example, a family consisting of 2 adults and 2 children under the federal poverty level would be struggling to make ends meet on $27,479 a year or roughly $2,300 per month in San Diego. We know that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development says that households spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing are suffering from rent burden, making it difficult for these households to meet their other basic needs. For a family of 4 to not be rent burdened they would need to find housing that costs less than $700 per month. Median rent for two bedroom housing in District 4 is $1,900 a month. This family would be unable to afford to live in a two bedroom home in District 4, let alone afford food, transportation or childcare for their family. This report focuses on the federal poverty thresholds because governments use these measures to decide who is poor and who qualifies for most public benefits. Our point is that the federal poverty measure drastically undercounts who is really struggling in San Diego County.

district 4 has high rates of severe poverty & racial economic disparity

Even using this inadequate measure, it is clear that District 4 is home to a large number of severely poor people. At 13.5%, District 4 has the highest poverty rate of any county supervisorial district.

Along with having the highest rate of deep poverty across supervisorial county districts, non-White residents in District 4 are also more likely to be living in severe poverty. In fact, all racial and ethnic categories had higher rates of poverty in District 4 compared to the county overall. With Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Asians having poverty rates over 40% higher than the county’s rates for each of these racial categories. More than 1 in 5 (21.5%) Black people and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (20.8%) living in District 4 were living in severe poverty. This is more than twice the rate (9.5%) for White residents of the district. Additionally, more than 1 in 6 (16.4%) Latinx and (17.2%) Native American residents in District 4 lived in severe poverty.

One in five children lived in households in severe poverty in District 4

More than 25,000 children in District 4 lived in households with incomes below the federal poverty level. This means that 1 in 5, or 19.2%, of the children in District 4 lived in severe poverty. This is the highest rate of children living in poverty across all of the county’s supervisorial districts, and higher than San Diego County overall.

If we look at the data another way, approximately 19% of San Diego County’s children lived in District 4 in 2021, yet over a quarter (27%) of all the children in San Diego County living in households below the federal poverty level lived in District 4. Additionally, while District 3 and District 4 are each home to nearly identical percentages of children (18.8% for District 3 and 18.7% for District 4), a child living in severe poverty is 3 times more likely to live in District 4 than in District 3.

household incomes are lower for non-white people

The overall median income in District 4 was $84,967 compared to $95,044 in San Diego County. This means that half of all households in District 4 had incomes below $84,967. Table 3 shows median income and average household size by race. White and Asian households had the highest median incomes in District 4. Black households had the lowest median incomes in District 4 at $65,780. Half of all Native American households took home less than $76,247 and half of all Latinx households took home less than $78,262.

When considering household size, Latinx households in District 4 are on average larger and White households are on average smaller. Latinx households are more likely to have less income to take care of more people, while White households typically have more income to support fewer people.

District 4 is unaffordable to most of its residents

Median rents for 2 bedroom housing units in District 4 are less than in San Diego County overall. This contributes to the widespread notion in our region that District 4 is home to more housing that families can afford than is true in much of the rest of the county. While that may be true, in 2021 more than half of District 4 residents, approximately 73,000 households, were rent burdened and spent more than 30% of their income on rent.

When looking across incomes of renters in District 4, 90% of households making less than $50,000 per year were rent burdened. Households with incomes at or below $48,250 are considered very low income, and would qualify for many housing assistance programs offered through the county such as Section 8. Policymakers in San Diego need to use policies that help to stabilize rent (i.e., rent control) and protect renters from being exploited by corporations and individuals that focus on using renters to generate profits.

Workers in District 4 struggle to meet their basic needs

In 2021 357,738 people living in County District 4 were employed. District 4 residents were 23% of San Diego County’s working population. Eighty one percent (or almost 290,000) of District 4 residents worked in one of ten sectors. According to the self-sufficiency standard a single person needs $44,103 a year to make ends meet in San Diego County. Four of these industries paid half of their workers less than $44,103. Among the 10 largest industries that employed District 4 residents pay was the lowest in the hotel and restaurant sector at $24,772, and in the retail sector with median pay at $31,374.


CPI analyzes poverty, income, and earnings to provide insight on poverty and income disparities. These reports are used by advocates and policymakers to make informed, positive changes that improve the standard of living and equity in the San Diego region.

Data are from the US Census Bureau’s 2017-2021 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (ACS), unless otherwise stated.

Study Area: We used Census data, by Census Tracts, to generate demographic, poverty, income, rent, and wage estimates for San Diego County Supervisorial Districts based district maps adopted in 2022. Some census tracts overlap multiple districts, therefore populations in those tracts were identified and allocated to districts based on the size of the districts overlapping the census tracts. The size of the overlap were calculated using ArcGIS mapping software tools. District data includes the cities of La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and portions of the City of San Diego as well as some unincorporated areas in San Diego County.

Zip codes that are represented in District 4 include: (Fully) 91941, 91942, 91945, 92103, 92104, 92105, 92108, 92114, 92115, 92116, 92117, 92139; (Partially) 91977, 91978, 92019, 92020, 92101, 92102, 92110, 92123.

Written by CPI San Diego

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