I got to speak with Kelly Cunningham this afternoon; he’s the economist for the San Diego Institute for Policy Research, the conservative think tank founded by Steve Francis.

He shared some thoughts from his examination of the Census numbers released yesterday:

Out of 500-some metropolitan statistical areas, San Diego rates 162 for its poverty level. Among the 30-some such areas in California, San Diego rates 12th.

But because of a much higher cost of living in this region than in many nationwide, Cunningham said the threshold accounts for just a fraction of the people who live in poverty here — an analysis that jives with a lot of what Murtaza Baxamusa, economist with the left-leaning Center on Policy Initiatives, said yesterday.

“What seems obvious to us is that what the federal government considers the poverty line is too low for San Diego,” Cunningham said. “Their poverty line is almost absurd.”

Here’s a link to the federal poverty thresholds delineated by family size and number of children. For example, to be considered in poverty, a family of two must earn no more than $13,166, and a family of three must earn no more than $16,079 annually. The threshold for a family of four is $20,614.

How much higher would San Diego rank on that national list if the threshold were raised to an income that still leaves households here struggling to survive?

Cunningham raises that question, as does Baxamusa.

When I was chatting with Baxamusa yesterday, he mentioned that more than a quarter of the county’s single moms with children live beneath that federal threshold. A full-time minimum wage job pays just $15,600 annually.

“More than one in four single moms with kids are in poverty,” Baxamusa said. “And it’s more likely to be the single mom with two children working full time retail.”

KELLY BENNETT

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