<b>PINPOINTING THE POOR:</b>  First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal led the charge for the study, which cost $60,000.

Paul Wellman (file)

PINPOINTING THE POOR: First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal led the charge for the study, which cost $60,000.

1 in 5 in Poverty

Countywide Study Delivers Startling Results

Thursday, September 12, 2013
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The struggles of those who live in poverty reach far and wide, from what they’re able to eat and where they’re able to live, to whether they can care for their health and their kids and transport themselves to work (often multiple) minimum-wage jobs. Such is life for thousands of Santa Barbara County residents, according to a study on poverty commissioned by the Board of Supervisors in January 2012, the findings of which were presented Tuesday.

The fact that there are poor people in Santa Barbara County is not a revelation. But the study’s hard numbers and its presentation of the discrepancy between what federal standards say poverty means and what other metrics say is necessary for basic survival point to room for change in how the county’s poor are served. First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who proposed the study in 2011, said that for all of the study’s gloom, there is not necessarily doom. “The silver lining is that this provides us a tool to be more strategic in better serving that population in future years,” he said, explaining that he wants the statistics to help the county find ways to better align services with the people who need them and keep track of this data in the future.

The study, conducted by the Oakland-based Insight Center for Community Economic Development, focused on areas according to Census tracts and zip codes, and culled its data from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, historical records, and primary input from more than 100 area service providers and 16 leaders of nonprofit and private organizations.

It also took into account the dueling metrics used to measure poverty. For example, the federal guidelines ​— ​the thresholds of which are based on 1950s spending patterns and don’t vary by location ​— ​classify a single person as living in poverty if they make just under $11,000 a year. For a family of three, that number increases to about $18,000. The Self-Sufficiency Standard is another metric, which is used by the majority of states and can vary by county. Santa Barbara County’s Self-Sufficiency Standard says that a single adult needs at least about $27,000 a year to pay for basic needs, while a single parent with two young children needs close to $60,000 per year ​— ​an amount not covered by even three full-time, minimum-wage jobs.

To find the county’s most-suffering pockets, the report designated high-poverty areas as those whose Census tracts exceeded 20 percent of its residents living in poverty. And after crunching the numbers, the researchers found the county’s poorest areas concentrated in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Lompoc, and Isla Vista.

Out of the county’s 400,000-plus residents, nearly 74,000 ​— ​almost a fifth of the population ​— ​are living in poverty. Some other staggering findings include:

• In high-poverty areas, the child poverty rate is 40 percent, adults 30 percent, seniors 10 percent.

• Only about 16 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree in high-poverty areas.

• High-poverty areas are home to 40 percent of the county’s residents using alternative transportation.

• About 34 percent of families in poverty live in South County, but they receive about half of the county’s public housing units and Section 8 vouchers.

• Nearly 72 percent of the unmet child-care needs are in the high poverty areas, with a huge portion in Santa Maria.

• In high-poverty areas, the average age of death is three years younger.

The study also found startling comparisons between how average wages for full-time jobs have changed between 2000 and 2010. While residents countywide only suffered an average yearly loss of about $21, those living in the high-poverty areas saw cuts of more than $2,000 a year. The most popular types of jobs in high-poverty areas were in agriculture, retail, and accommodation and food services ​— ​with all three sectors averaging only about $12 per hour.

Food stamp use also varied greatly between the county overall and the high-poverty areas, with about 15 percent of county households versus 32 percent of high-poverty area households using the program. The high-poverty areas in Santa Maria and Lompoc were the greatest participants.

Out of the 71,000 people countywide lacking health insurance, more than 20,000 are living in the high-poverty areas. Dr. Takashi Wada, the director and health officer for the county’s Public Health Department, said the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) is projected to lower those figures over the next several years.

Although the cities of Guadalupe and Carpinteria didn’t technically meet the poverty requirements ​— ​they’re alarmingly close, though ​— ​Supervisor Carbajal said that there are “multiple levels of poverty.”

“Is one dollar really going to help you be better off than me?” he asked. “Many people are just one paycheck away from finding themselves in a circumstance where they can’t sustain their rent or put food on the table.”

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said that he used to live in poverty himself, but he credited a higher-paying job, not social services, with freeing him from that status. He added that he saw the study as an opportunity to work more with the area’s nonprofits, as well as increasing the number of resources in North County.

Supervisor Janet Wolf said that the results of the study shouldn’t be compared to “the perfect world,” adding, “We have situations in our county where single moms and dads raising children need some help. That’s what the county is here to do.”

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to keep the findings in mind for future programs and budgets.

To read the study in its entirety, visit


Independent Discussion Guidelines

"The most popular types of jobs in high-poverty areas were in agriculture, retail, and accommodation and food services ​— ​with all three sectors averaging only about $12 per hour."

Interesting that SB's tax base depends so much on two of those sectors. It would be interesting to follow a dollar spent by a tourist to see where the pennies go ...

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 9:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

There are others states with lower unemployment and lower costs of living. If people can't make it here, they need to make better choices for themselves. This is not a county problem to solve; it is a matter of individual choice to solve.

Choosing to move to Santa Barbara County does not guarantee any particular economic status to be subsidized by local taxpayers. Not sure what the point of this article is.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 10:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And so, Foo, if all these people move away, will you be filling in for them in the agricultural, retail and accomodations and food service industries? These people by and large work there asses off so we can enjoy our privileged lifestyle.

discoboy (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 11:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"The most popular types of jobs in high-poverty areas were in agriculture, retail, and accommodation and food services"

So without people being employed in these services (if they leave) then agriculture, retail and accommodation and food services will go bankrupt, and affect the economy of the area ???

One can look at this two ways:
from the right: "​Choosing to move to Santa Barbara County does not guarantee any particular economic status to be subsidized by local taxpayers."

from the left: Employers who pay their employees poverty wages are in effect asking their employees to subsidize their businesses. And in so doing, they are ultimately asking the taxpayer to subsidize their businesses. If they cannot afford to pay employees a living wage, they should not be in business.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 11:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow tabatha, you hit the nail on the head and you don't even know it.

If employers paid their employees higher wages they would go out of business.

Your suggestion is the part I don't agree with - going out of business - now we don't have the business or any of the jobs and all of those people are unemployed! How does that solve anything?

California is thinking about raising the minimum wage to $10/hr. If raising the minimum wage is such a great idea, why not raise it to $40/hour? Why not raise the minimum wage to $100/hour? We'll all be rich, right? No, what would happen is all of the employers would revolt and not follow the law because it is ludicrous. Then law enforcement would come in and arrest the business owners for having the gall to hire somebody and pay them for their services instead of shuttering their doors and foreclosing on their house like a good Mundane.

What people on the left don't think about is that a $12/hour job is much better than no job. It is bringing in some income and increasing production and services for everybody.

Think about what would make everybody happy. It's not a $60k/year job if the cost of living increases in line along with income. What people want is affordable housing and affordable goods and services. So instead of raising people's wages, the goal of those on the 'right' is to increase purchasing power with those wages. This is achieved through lowering taxes and decreasing regulations including decreasing or abolishing the minimum wage. If the minimum wage along with high taxes and regulations were abolished, you would see an increase in employment. You would see an increase in production and a decrease in prices. Everybody would be better off, the poor would benefit more than anybody.

The left does everything the opposite. They do everything possible to raise prices on everything and then when poor people can't afford it anymore they raise minimum wage - but that results in unemployment as employers cannot afford to hire as many workers. In fact, low skilled labor may not be able to find any work because they cannot create enough value in an hour to justify minimum wage + insurance and all the other crap that comes along with hiring somebody. If you lowered minimum wage, the low skilled workers could get jobs for lower pay and eventually become skilled workers instead of becoming skilled at receiving government benefits.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 12:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, there is a Santa Claus. You Can get something for nothing. Is there a reason we still have high unemployment and a high percentage of people on the government dole, yet we can't get enough people to pick our crops without a guest worker program? Heck, I wouldn't even mind raising the minimum wage as long as you cut some of these people off the government teat. If people can get more for not working than they can for a minimum wage job, people won't work, and who would blame them?

Botany (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 1:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

loonpt, so basically you are saying that in order to stay in business, a business can pay employees slave wages that then make them dependent on other sources for housing, etc.

You also take things to extreme - I said a living wage, not a MacMansion wage. That is the problem - illogical answers.

And Botany, I have heard - I do not know for sure - but to get financial aid, you have to produce all sorts of paperwork, and you have to prove that you are actively looking for a job. If any of those are not true, you cannot just decide you don't want to work and get a pittance from the govt.

Once again, illogical, unfactual answer.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 1:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Tabatha, compare 40 hours of hard work with the motions needed to go through to prove that one is "actively looking". I'm not holding my breath that any of those "actively looking" unemployed are going to take those vacant farm worker positions that we need a guest worker program for, are you?

Botany (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 2:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

discoboy, go back and read what you just wrote, cull out the class envy and read a good book about Protestant Ethic capitalism. I am not subsidizing your guilt, over your mistreatment of workers.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 2:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Tabatha, you are overlooking the mire public services has created that distorts normal market forces.

Start repeating to yourself until it sinks in and becomes an operating philosophy: willing buyer meets willing seller equals market economy.

Then dwell a bit what happens when the nanny state jumps in to distort this historic and workable relationship.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 2:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you foofighter - but I can see though your BS very easily. There is no such thing as a willing buyer when it comes to jobs. People take what they can get. There is nothing in the market economy that prevents employers from ripping off their employees, paying them slave wages and keeping all the money for themselves.

Thus your market economy simplistic notion is full of holes. It is a shame that you cannot see that.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 2:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"People take what they can get" Then who's taking those farmworker jobs Tabatha?? We don't need a guest worker program to pick our crops, right?

Botany (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 3:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good grief!

As usual, the lib-dem partnership of Lyz Hoffman and the Independent fail to point out that while 1 in 5 residents live under the poverty level, only about 1 in 8 *citizens* live in under the poverty level. And if you exclude the kids of illegal immigrants over the past 20 years, less than 1 in 12.

This article is just a way to drum up more taxes for more government union workers to "spread the wealth" via growing armies of bureaucrats that inefficiently dole out services and money.

How about SB county try this:

1. Ends sanctuary status and protection of lawbreakers that are in the country and county illegally? This would drive up grocery and other costs marginally so that citizens can be paid a wage worth doing what they will not do today because illegal immigrants do it cheaper.

2. End the machine the creates more democratic voters via open-borders and 2nd generation impoverished people that vote for dems and stop the corporate (and rich SB residents) wage subsidies of illegal immigrant labor? Dems need people to be poor and uneducated because that's who votes for them. Businesses and landowners need cheap labor.

3. How about SB get more business friendly so it doesn't take (for example) $50K and 9 months to open a restaurant kitchen in SB? Maybe then we'd have a more thriving economy that had more job openings.

God forbid!

willy88 (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 3:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

tabitha, It is a shame you can't see your misplaced sense of entitlement. But then my generation was raised with the motto "no one owes you a living".

Here is the deal: you want to be your own boss, create your own business and you can pay yourself anything you want.

If your response is ooooohhh, that is too hard to do myself, then you just found the value-added of being an employer over being a resentful employee.

Ponder this, do you ever wonder why you might have a hard time finding jobs - willing seller, wllling buyer and all that.

Now my little chickadee, let me pass on the words of wisdom I got from my parents: No one owes you a living.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 3:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's put things in perspective.

300 or 400 years ago royal families lived in what today would be considered poverty. No plumbing, no electricity, no central heat, no TV, no phones, no real health care.

200 years ago 99%+ of the world population lived in what would be considered poverty by today's standards. Humans lived that way for hundreds of thousands of years.

150 years ago, even in America, a very large portion of the population if not the entire population lived in what would be considered poverty. On top of that, many were working 12+ hour grueling days in factories, or "sweat shops". People worked hard and developed technology and developed our country into what it was today and that took a long time and a lot of effort. Then you have these liberals whining that people in the third world are living in poverty and we need to raise them up to our standards.. But it took us 200 years of work to get here... and today, developing countries get from where we were 150 years ago to where we were not long ago in a much shorter span of time, like 20 or 30 years. That's incredible!

Now unfortunately there is a lot working against third world countries, including global corporations that come in and seize their land, forcing indigenous people into large cities where they have no other opportunity than to work for a factory. It would be nice if they had the OPTION of going into the city to work in a factory, or working on their subsistence farm where they have been for generations. Unfortunately they often get kicked off their farm violently by people who want the resources in, under or around their land. We should work to stop that from happening, but we don't need to prevent people in developing countries from working to develop their country!

In our country, our poverty is caused primarily by the declining value of the dollar which raises prices on food, housing, energy and all of the necessities that we buy day in and day out.. This is caused by a Federal Reserve that prints money and devalues our money and our wages in order to pay for endless overseas foreign wars, an endless entitlement system and endless government agencies that have endless regulations over every business and every aspect of our lives. With all of the automation and technology we have today, there is no reason why people should be living in poverty. But instead we waste our money on wasted violence overseas and a tyrannical government.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 5:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Look at all the government regulations and perhaps it makes the picture clear. If businesses didn't have to pay out so much protection money to the government maybe they could lower their prices and everything would be cheaper. Just a thought. I used to be someone who always voted for raising bonds/taxes until I realized the money doesn't get to its supposed destination but seems to disappear into the hands of unknown beneficiaries.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 6:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The vastly different viewpoints and solutions expressed by so many of the posters here is both a sign of a vibrant democracy AND a perfect example of why we have total gridlock in Washington and elsewhere. Some see poverty as a symptom of laziness others as symptom of bad laws and government inaction. One thing I am pretty sure of is that very few people on welfare or unemployment really want to stay in that status. Perhaps a few but not many. What most people of any ethnicity want is a decent job that provides at least a modicum of dignity and a modest standard of living.

Noletaman (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 10:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

clausen, sadly you nailed.

There are those out there who intentionally feed off bond money and exploit it as if it were ......someone else's money. Just like those ready to prey on lottery winners.

The actual hard construction can be relatively minor compared to how many eager hands siphon off huge amounts of cash for "services" along the way. Huge scandal down in Los Angeles a few years ago - week long feature stories about millions lost to crooked practices, pay off and political crony feather bedding with bond money.

Bond oversight committees are a joke because just adding up the numbers after the fact does not change the earlier decisions that get made well before the checks get written and the cronies all get paid for their "services" rendered.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2013 at 10:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared a "War on Poverty", rational minds would come to the conclusion that a war that has lasted over 47 years and has not bought about any significant advances or change, a failure. Maybe it is time to look at the problem, differently?

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
September 13, 2013 at 9:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A partial solution to the problem would be more better-paying jobs in the County. What has the BoS done to encourage job formation in SB County? Ever?

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
September 13, 2013 at 2:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't come to Santa Barbara and plead poverty. The arrogance of it all.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
September 13, 2013 at 11:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

when you look at how the top 1, 2, 5 % own, use the majority of our resources, they are the new 'royals'. Live in your economic theory to your own demise. If things keep going as they are now, the people will realize they've been had and those with will become the target. War on poverty? what a joke, that was abandoned long ago or was lip service. Coming soon; the war on greed.

spacey (anonymous profile)
September 14, 2013 at 12:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Society has always been stratified. It is called success and aspiration. Rags to riches is the American story. Everyone has a shot at it.

But anyone coming to Santa Barbara with the idea of making it big is badly misguided. That is trying to live your life backwards. You make it big somewhere else, then come here to enjoy the rewards.

This is really okay. Save your resentment and channel it into your own success story; but doubt this will happen if you stay here. This is not the type of town that sprouts Horatio Alger stories.

C'mon. You have to move where the action is, like LA or OC if you want to seek your fortune, and then come back to Santa Barbara and do what you want on your own dime.

This has always been a town of tourism and pensions - so those are your choices. Or work for the government. Get a gig in high tech in Goleta but that is pretty much it. Otherwise you have to have a very strong skill set or professional entree to start at the middle, instead of at the bottom.

Be realistic, instead of resentful.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
September 14, 2013 at 6:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

what silliness, foo, while stratifications do exist in societies, in the USA the economic INequalities have magnified immensely since 1970, and especially since the Great Recession of 2007-08. The 0.1% have reaped 60% of the financial comeback since 2009; the poor have gotten poorer. You're a hardhearted fellow, and dense as well since you bounce back up after getting swatted down time and time again in these posts. Be intelligent instead of repetitive.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
September 14, 2013 at 7:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One could argue that the 17% of the population that work for various levels of government, with excellent benefits and pensions, are special class unto their own, esp since the unionized among them negotiate their compensation with the people they help elect in many places.

But Dr Dan is right, the top 1% have fared astronomically better than the rest of us in the past 5 years. It would be interesting to know how many of that 1% were helped by the government (e.g. bankers, hedge fund operators....)

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
September 15, 2013 at 9:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

17% sounds high. Reference?

Per the US Census Bureau ... total Fed, State, Local government full and part-time employees in March 2011 was 22.2 million:

US population in March 2011 was 311 million:

So nationwide, the percentage of workers in govt. was 22.2/311 = 7.1%.

I believe the above is for civilian employment. If that's the case, military jobs would add another 1.5 million in 2011:

Govt. workers nationwide incl. military = (22.2+1.5)/311 = 7.6%

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 15, 2013 at 11:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Who makes up the top 0.1%:

"Executives & managers (non-finance)" were way on top followed by "Finance, including management".

As of 2011, earners in the top 5%-1% bracket made an average of $211K. Those in the 1%-0.5% bracket averaged $443K.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 15, 2013 at 11:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Best for last ... who came on top during the recent "recovery"?

The latest from Emmanuel Saez, one of the best economists studying income distribution in the US:

"Top 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.4% from 2009 to 2012. Hence, the top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery. From 2009 to 2010, top 1% grew fast and then stagnated from 2010 to 2011. Bottom 99% stagnated both from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011. In 2012, top 1% incomes increased sharply by 19.6% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 1.0%.

In sum, top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while bottom 99% incomes have hardly started to recover."

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 15, 2013 at 11:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, EB, there it is, I'd actually been careful not to exaggerate my numbers, and Saez's are pretty conclusive: "Hence, the top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery." And that fits with my number [all these stats annihilate foo, let's just ignore his rants] that the 0.1% got 60% of the gains: these 0.1% each earn around $1.9 million per year, and how wonderful they have gained almost all the traction in this recovery! They can hire more nannies and coaches and caregivers and butlers and maintenance crew and ... And let's try to cut Food Stamps, too.
I liked the old Republicans better, they wanted a strong economy for all, not just their fat cat bosses. We're in a new Gilded Age, or, as Ger. philosopher Sloterdijk writes, it's a Second Silver Age (and decaying fast).

DrDan (anonymous profile)
September 15, 2013 at 12:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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