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Poverty Has Jumped 69 Percent In SoCal Since 1990

A homeless man sits on a couch on a sidewalk in front of what look like storage units, with a shopping cart and a pile of belongings nearby.
Skid Row residents rest on a public sidewalk.
(Kevork Djansezian
Getty Images)
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There are about a million more people living in poverty in Southern California—69 percent more—than there were in 1990.

Those alarming stats come from a study put out by Southern California Association of Governments. The study based on census data looks at how poverty rates have changed from 1990 until 2012 in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties (basically, all the counties in SoCal except San Diego).

Back in 1990 (which wasn't exactly a banner year for the US economy), there were 1.9 million people living in poverty in those six counties. Now there are 3.2 million. Those rapidly increasing numbers can't be explained by a rise in the overall population alone—the number of people in poverty rose 69 percent, while the general population in those areas rose 26 percent.

Overall, 18 percent of people are living in poverty in those six counties. The worst off are Imperial County (23 percent) and San Bernardino County (20 percent). Kids are hit hard: one out of every four children in SoCal are living in poverty.

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It sounds bleak, but these numbers based on federal guidelines for poverty this might actually be underselling just how bad it is in Southern California, the regional planning agency said. That's because the cost of living in California tends to be higher than in many other places around the country. A study released in September shows that Los Angeles County actually leads the state in poverty if you do take into account the cost of living.

The economy has improved since the recession but the pace has been "slow, uneven and inconsistent." The study estimates that Los Angeles County won't fully recover from job losses from the recession until 2020.