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Tess Vigeland On Tough Choices For San Diego’s Poor

Evening Edition

Tess Vigeland, the host of Marketplace Money, talks to KPBS about her series on wealth and poverty.

Aired 9/27/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Tess Vigeland, host, Marketplace Money

Tom Fudge, KPBS reporter


Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

City Heights family Tinson-Ricardos talk to Marketplace Money about tough cho...
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Above: City Heights family Tinson-Ricardos talk to Marketplace Money about tough choices on a limited income.

San Diego is known for its beaches, biotech, zoo and amusement parks. One thing it is not usually known for is a place with pockets of severe poverty.

But the American Public Media program Marketplace Money chose San Diego for a series of stories on poverty and how life changes when you have to stretch too little money too far...all the time.

Tess Vigeland, the host of Marketplace Money, told KPBS she chose San Diego because "when you think of San Diego, you don't necessarily think of poverty, at least on the national level."

She said places like the Hotel del Coronado and La Jolla give San Diego a wealthy image, when in fact 15 percent of San Diego County lives in poverty.

"That directly mirrors the national average," she said.

Vigeland spent most of her time in City Heights visiting with families living under the national poverty level. She said their financial decisions come down to "choosing between basics."

"Are you going to pay for food for the day, or are you going to gas up your car?" she said. "That's assuming you even have a car."

KPBS reporter Tom Fudge contributed to the Marketplace Money series with his segment Rich and Poor San Diegans Take Stock Of The American Dream.

Marketplace Money airs Saturdays at 3pm on KPBS-FM. This economy series can be heard on October 6.

Jolie Puidokas contributed to this segment. Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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Avatar for user 'john_in_ec'

john_in_ec | September 27, 2012 at 1:07 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

I just found out through this series that I'm poor!

A family of six was reported to be struggling and as evidence it was said that they were feeding a family of six on just $20/day. I feed a family of four on $450/month, which averages slightly less than $15/day, so my family must be in near-poverty.

You wouldn't know it from my freezer: I have salmon, tilapia, and rather expensive frozen lunches for my work-in-an-office wife plus much more. The cupboards have goodies like cous cous, mole sauce, basmati rice, Indian lentils, etc. We always have fresh produce on hand. We eat well.

What we *can't* afford to do is eat out very often, but I'm sure we have a healthier diet as a result.

I'm too lazy to use coupons, and I don't plan meals as much as I should (that is a tremendous money-saver), so it's not like I'm going to very much trouble to stay within my budget. Is my family poor?

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Avatar for user 'hejourdain'

hejourdain | September 27, 2012 at 1:22 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

I wanted to thank Tess Vigeland for her report on poverty in San Diego. Money Market is a program which most times focuses on an abstract reality measured by indexes which elude me. This time, I felt connected to a struggle of poverty that I see and hear about daily from my students in the many aspects of the classroom. Thank you

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | September 27, 2012 at 3:03 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

john_in_ec, your post initially states that you've recently found out that you're poor, but then you conclude your post by asking if you're poor. So, are you seeking confirmation of your financial status from the KPBS website commenting community, or are you attempting to make a point?

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Avatar for user 'john_in_ec'

john_in_ec | September 28, 2012 at 10 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago


The first line wasn't meant to be taken seriously.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | September 28, 2012 at 11:36 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Oh, okay. So, then you're basically just bragging about not being poor? Or, you're trying to tell people like you who may think they're poor that they're not actually poor, as if that changes things? I guess I'm confused as to your motives.

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Avatar for user 'm2healthfit'

m2healthfit | October 6, 2012 at 8:58 a.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Tess, thank you for your story and encouragement to people around the world. As I listened to it this morning I was amazed by the family's comments about being rich as a family and having faith in God as their riches. Even quoting my husband's favorite verse (Jeremiah 29:11), and teaching the kids that every penny counts - something ALL children need to learn - and hopefully remember as they grow.

We have come through some tough times of juggling things to pay the electricity and water bills, and working hard to make it happen. Thankfully our church had Treasure Box,, which is now closed, but that helped a TON!

Thank you, for the encouragement to me... and hopefully to MANY others.
Kerry @

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