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Center on Policy Initiatives
MAKING ENDS MEET
A look at the Self-Sufficiency Standard –
the income needed for families of various sizes to
cover basic living expenses – and the San Diegans
whose wages don’t reach that level.
A third (33%) of working age families in San Diego County can’t make ends meet.
That’s more than 269,000 households, and more than 1 million individuals, living with incomes
too low to cover basic expenses.
San Diego County’s poverty rate of 13.8% vastly undercounts the number of
families living in economic insecurity. Fully a third of all households headed
by people under age 65 have incomes below the cost of living in the region.
Based on the costs of basic family budget items, the Self-Sufficiency Standard
indicates the yearly income families need just to get by. The basic budget starts
at almost $28,000 a year for a single adult, which would require an hourly wage
of at least $13.23 if working full-time all year long. The budget grows with family
size and differs according to the ages of children in the family.
Self-Sufficiency is the ability to afford the bare-bones costs of living without
public or private assistance. The calculation of the standard includes only
no-frills items like housing, food, transportation, child care, healthcare, and
San Diego County Self-Sufficiency Standard
vs Federal Poverty Level
|1 Adult||1 Adult + schoolage child||1 Adult
|$12,331||$16,337||$19,096||$24,036||$28,286||Yearly income needed
to live self-sufficiently
in San Diego County
|$27,942||$47,407||$66,145||$88,616||$97,058||Hourly wage needed
adult to reach
|$13.23||$22.45||$31.32||$20.98 each||$22.98 each||*Families are officially in poverty when yearly income is below the threshold for the family size. This table shows just a few examples of
** These are the wages needed if the adults work full-time all year. Higher hourly rates are needed if working fewer hours.
|Housing||Child Care||Food||Transportation||Health Care||Miscellaneous||Taxes||Child Care
Tax Credit (-)
Total Household income need
|1 Adult + preschooler + school-age child||$1,390||$1,631||$642||$270||$444||$438||$963||($100)||($167)||$5,512||$66,145|
2 school-age child
Work and Self-Sufficiency
Working doesn’t guarantee enough income to make ends meet. At least
one person is working in 88% of the 269,068 working-age households in
San Diego County living below the Self-Sufficiency Standard.
Work status of households with incomes below the
|Working-age households in
San Diego County
|Total # in
|# Below Standard|| % Below
|All households headed by
someone under age 65
|Households with at least
one person working
|Households with two or
more people working
|Households with at least one person
working full-time, year-round
In some of San Diego County’s major industries, almost half of employees have incomes too low to live self-sufficiently.
Jobs that pay too little to cover basic expenses are concentrated in some of the largest industries in the region, including tourism (hotels, restaurants, and entertainment), other services, retail sales, construction. Agriculture has relatively few jobs in the region but less than half of the workers make enough to get by.
Industries with median earnings below the cost of living
|San Diego County’s
|Workforce in region||% Below Self-Sufficiency Standard|