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 + schoolage child
Yearly income needed
to live self-sufficiently
in San Diego County
Hourly wage needed
adult to reach
*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.
San Diego County Self-Sufficiency Standard
--The no-frills costs of living without public or private assistance
Child Care Tax Credit (-)
Child Tax Credit (-)
Total Household income need
1 Adult+ school-age child
1 Adult + preschooler + school-age child
2 school-age child
Women earn 74 cents for every dollar men are paid in jobs
throughout San Diego County. With a median annual income of $30,569, compared to $41,447 for men, households headed by women are most likely to fall below the Self-Sufficiency Standard.
The gender pay gap is larger in some major industries, such as tourism and service industries. Only in construction, where relatively few women are employed, do women tend to earn more than men.
Pay inequity: Median yearly earnings in San Diego County’s
lowest-paying industries, for men and women
Retail sales (All stores, online shopping,
gas stations, other retail)
Construction (Construction of buildings, homes,
Misc. services (Repairs, maintenance, cleaning, personal care, etc.)
Agriculture (Farming, forestry, fishing, mining)
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.
Even if two people in a family work or at least one works full-time all year,
a quarter of all families still have earnings too low for the basic costs of living
in the San Diego region.
Work status of households with incomes below the
Working-age households in
San Diego County
Total # in
# Below Standard
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
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The Self-Sufficiency Standard was developed by Dr. Diana Pearce at the University of Washington. See http://depts.washington.
edu/selfsuff/docs/CA2014_ methodology.pdf. To be consistent with 2015 American Community Survey data, we updated
or adjusted the Self-Sufficiency Standard budget categories to reflect 2015 costs using Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) Fair Market Rents (FMRs) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Price Index Urban for Wage
Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Hourly wages to meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard are calculated assuming adults work
eight hours per day for 22 days per month and 12 months per year. We then combined the Self-Sufficiency Standard annual
budgets with American Community Survey 2015 1-year Public Use Microdata for residents of San Diego County. Consistent with
prior Self Sufficiency Standard methodology, we limited the analysis to households headed by non-disabled persons under the
age of 65, which we refer to as “working-age households.”
This report was published in January 2017, using the most recently available data, from 2015.