Poverty, Jobs and the Los Angeles Economy: An Annual Analysis of U.S. Census Data and the Challenges Facing Our Region


The data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau present a mixed picture of how the Los Angeles economy performed in 2007. The percentage of Los Angeles County residents living below the federal poverty line decreased in 2007 over the previous year, but income inequality became more severe. Median household income rose slightly, but the difference was not statistically significant. The data also reveal that Los Angeles had higher levels of poverty and income inequality than the state and nation—and that many L.A. residents remain poor even though they are working. These high rates of poverty have a disproportionate impact on children, minorities and women.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data release covers 2007, when the Los Angeles economy was adding new jobs. In 2008, the situation has worsened for L.A.’s residents due to a dramatic rise in the cost of basic necessities and a deteriorating economy. An increase in the state’s minimum wage, active efforts by labor and community groups to improve job quality and innovative policy campaigns at the local level have mitigated the negative effects of the downturn for many workers.