If You Earn Over $100,000 Per Year In Parts Of California, You're Considered 'Low Income,' According To The State

In a recent statewide study conducted by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, eye-opening findings have emerged, challenging conventional notions of low income in the Golden State. 

The report, released in June, unveiled new income limits that have increased in most counties, leaving many single people throughout the state struggling despite earning $70,000 or more per year. 

The income limits, recalculated annually based on federal guidelines, serve as a critical determinant for eligibility in various assistance programs, particularly for affordable housing. But the limits are contingent on the number of people residing in a household.

For single-person households in Southern California, the income thresholds are as follows:

  • Los Angeles County: $70,650
  • Orange County: $80,400
  • Imperial County: $46,200
  • San Bernardino County: $52,200
  • San Diego County: $77,200
  • Santa Barbara County: $82,950
  • Ventura County: $74,400

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Even more startling was that single-person households in the San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties earning $104,000 were also considered to be within the low-income bracket.

In Central California, including Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Mariposa counties, individuals making $46,200 annually are classified as low-income. The findings have raised concerns among policymakers and community advocates, shining a spotlight on the pressing issue of affordable living in the state.

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The study also uncovered an increase in median income amounts, with many households boasting six-figure earnings. For instance, the median income in Los Angeles County stands at $98,200, while Orange County reports an even greater figure of $127,800. These figures compared against the low-income thresholds demonstrate the clear income disparities across the state.

Defining low income in the United States is a challenge. While the government-established federal poverty level (FPL) has traditionally served as a widely used benchmark, it may not reflect the true economic realities for people residing in high-cost areas like California.

The FPL, calculated annually by the Department of Health and Human Services, determines eligibility for various assistance programs, including the Children's Health Insurance Program, National School Lunch Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and parts of Medicaid. In 2023, the FPL definition of low income for a single-person household sits at $14,580 per year, with an additional $5,140 per person for larger households. For a family of four, the FPL is $30,000. 

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