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 taxes.

San Diego County Self-Sufficiency Standard
vs Federal Poverty Level

  1 Adult 1 Adult + schoolage child 1 Adult + preschooler + schoolage 2 Adults + infant + preschooler 2 Adults + preschooler + 2 schoolage
U.S. Poverty Thresholds * $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 per
adult to reach
Self-Sufficiency Standard**
$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 family composition.
** These are the wages needed if the adults work full-time all year. Higher hourly rates are needed if working fewer hours.