Last Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau released new supplemental demographic data on health, education, and income well-being on American FactFinder. The annual October release is significant as this new data allows us the ability to dig deeper to see how people are faring in their own local neighborhoods. 

One of the critical pieces of data we look at here at United Ways of California is median household earnings, which illustrates the economic potential of families throughout the state. It is a key component of our Real Cost Measure report, which determines what it takes a given household to make ends meet in California.

As illustrated in the map below, California ranks 10th nationally in median household earnings at $67,739 compared to other U.S. States (adjusted for 2016 inflation). This is approximately a 35% increase in earnings from 2010 where many households nationally were struggling in the aftermath of The Great Recession. 


These median household figures are certainly encouraging as it further validates how families are generally doing better in the aggregate than 10 years ago. This improvement, however, masks how specific communities throughout California continue to struggle to attain financial stability. In the map below, we use the just-released data to track median household earnings by neighborhood cluster (communities that have a population size between 100,000 – 200,000 people). Here we see a vast majority of the state’s household wealth concentrated in coastal communities and the Sierras, while families in the Central Valley, Northern California and desert communities earn significantly less, on average. Other findings include:


With respect to the latter, we see wide variation in survivability within Los Angeles County alone. According to this latest census release, the average household income in the neighborhood cluster of Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Malibu, and Westlake Village is $131,376 compared to $30,576 in the neighborhood cluster of the University of Southern California and Exposition Park. While the earning potential of this latter neighborhood cluster can be partially explained by university students who tend to be poorer than average households, it does speak to the challenges facing many south Los Angeles communities. Of the ten most struggling neighborhood clusters (265 in total), six of them are in the heart of South Los Angeles.  

We look forward to digging deeper into these household numbers over the course of the next few months as we will release a new version of the Real Cost Measure report next Spring. 

TIP: To look at median household earnings in your own neighborhood, click on "full screen" below the interactive maps above. Once there, press the magnifying glass on the upper left-hand corner to conduct a search, and type the name of your county or neighborhood.