Last week I needed to research where low-income residents live in San Diego for a possible story. I’m still working on the story, but in the meantime, I wanted to share an interesting map.

Below, I’ve illustrated the percentage of households earning under $30,000 a year, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each area represents a census tract. Darker orange areas indicate a higher concentration of poor residents.

Creating the map confirmed a major geographic divide that’s often cited in public discussions, and at least for me, revealed a few other divides that I’ll keep in mind for future reference. Income is often cited to explain why things like crime, education and civic engagement vary across different communities.

Interstate 8 (the purple line above)

Residents south of Interstate 8 are poorer than residents to the north, and this broad comparison is often a flash point of public discussion about how services are distributed or prioritized.

City Council District 1 (the green line above)

I spent a few weeks earlier this year getting to know San Diego’s northwestern neighborhoods. I wanted to figure out which issues matter to voters as they decide who will be their next council member. For some, it simply comes down to a proposed bridge.

Then, the June 5 primary election showed a clear geographic divide between support for Democrat incumbent Sherri Lightner and Republican challenger Ray Ellis. That divide, which you can see by clicking here, resembles the same kind of divide shown above.

Voters from wealthier areas of District 1 like La Jolla and Carmel Valley mainly supported Ellis while voters from less affluent areas like University City backed Lightner.

City Council District 4 (the blue line above)

Poverty extends across San Diego’s southeastern neighborhoods, but to a lesser degree in southern sections like Paradise Hills and Bay Terraces.

Chula Vista (the yellow line above)

Like San Diego overall, Chula Vista has its own distinct geographic divide based on household income. Coastal neighborhoods contain higher concentrations of poor residents than newer inland areas.

Compared to other places like northern San Diego, Chula Vista’s divide is peculiar. The wealthy tend to gravitate near the ocean while the poor tend to reside more inland. Chula Vista is an exception to that rule of thumb.

For an interactive version of the map above, including a look at median household income by census tract, check out this New York Times website. It illustrates a slightly older set of population estimates than the graphic above.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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