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Census: El Cajon Has Highest Poverty Rates In San Diego County

Corinne Wilson, director of research and policy for the Center for Policy Initiatives in San Diego, and Marney Cox, SANDAG's chief economist, talk to KPBS about the newest data on income from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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A new report finds San Diegans working in the region's biggest industries keep seeing their wages shrink.

The U.S. Census Bureau data released today offers a detailed look at income and poverty levels in San Diego. The Center on Policy Initiatives, a community advocacy group, analyzed the earnings figures. Their report, "Poverty, Earnings and Income in San Diego County 2011," shows spending power was down in 2011.

Corinne Wilson, director of research and policy for the Center for Policy Initiatives in San Diego, told KPBS people in San Diego can buy less with their paychecks than last year.

"So while we're working, we can't buy the same like we did last year," she said.

Wilson said the industry that pays the least in wages, the tourism industry, has had stagnant wage growth for the past five years.

The industry that employs the most people in San Diego, the health care and assistance industry, also had stagnant earnings, she said.

Marney Cox, SANDAG's chief economist, said the report shows a continuation of a trend that began in the late 1980s.

"We're seeing a lot more growth in low value-added, or low paying jobs," he said. "And we're seeing a lot less growth in either middle- or high-paying jobs."

Cox said we'd get a more complete picture of people living in poverty in San Diego County if the aid provided through programs like food stamps, housing assistance, and low-income health care were included in the data.

He said, "...we measure things using data in aggregate and assuming everybody acts the same. But when you're stressed, you don't act the same way. You go out and you make changes based upon the actions of the economy on you. And I think trying to figure out how people change their action is very important to try to figure out what programs or how to assist people who fall into that category."

He said twice as many people are finding low-paying jobs than middle- and high-paying jobs combined.

Cox said the number of people in poverty in San Diego did not significantly increase, but that number rose in California and across the country.

"So what was it about San Diego that was able to hold that number?" he said.

But Cox said the fact that San Diegans' income fell by 3 percent seemed like a lot.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.


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