Poverty is ramping up in Southern California and has risen significantly over the last two decades, according to a 2013 report from the Southern California Association of Governments.

Broken out by region, Imperial County is faring the worst, according to SCAG , with 23.2 percent of its residents living in poverty last year. San Bernardino County was next (20.4 percent), followed by Los Angeles County (19.1 percent), Riverside County (17.8 percent), Orange County (12.9 percent) and Ventura County (11.5 percent).

The burden of poverty for children followed the same geographical pattern, although the numbers were higher. Imperial County topped the list at 32.8 percent, followed by San Bernardino County (28.3 percent), Los Angeles County (27.2 percent), Riverside County (24.9 percent), Orange County (17.9 percent) and Ventura County (17.7 percent).

ACS 2008-2012 data

Imperial County % California U.S.
Population in Poverty 37,544 23.02%, see rank 15.28% 14.88%
Family in Poverty 7,978 20.87%, see rank 11.47% 10.92%

ACS 2006-2010 data

Imperial County % California U.S.
Population in Poverty 33,784 21.40%, see rank 13.71% 13.82%
Family in Poverty 7,484 19.62%, see rank 10.21% 10.08%

* ACS stands for U.S. Census American Community Survey. According to the U.S. Census, if the date is a range, you can interpret the data as an average of the period of time.


Imperial County leads state in treatment of children with asthma.

Youngsters in the region are far more likely than those elsewhere to go to the emergency room or be hospitalized for the chronic respiratory disease. Experts don’t know why.

July 16, 2012|By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times

“…For children with asthma in California, there is no place worse than Imperial County. They are far more likely than children in any other county to end up in the emergency room or hospitalized. Kids go the ER for asthma at a rate three times higher than the state’s average, according to the Department of Public Health.

“Imperial stands out,” said Meredith Milet, an epidemiologist with the department. “There is obviously a disparity…. There is just a need for something to change. It should be possible for it to be different for the kids of Imperial.”…

“…In Imperial County, about 63 percent of asthma-related ER visits and 67 percent of the hospitalizations, for both children and adults, are paid through Medicare and Medi-Cal. Each hospitalization costs, on average, about $16,600.

The county spans nearly 4,600 square miles of mostly desert in the southeastern corner of California, just north of Mexico and west of Arizona. The county is hot and dry and depends largely on agriculture. About 20 percent of the 177,000 residents live in poverty.

One in five of Imperial County’s children ages 5 to 17 has been diagnosed with the chronic respiratory disease, which cannot be cured but can be managed with medication. Uncontrolled asthma can lead to hospitalization and in rare cases, death. In 2009, a 16-year-old girl died after an asthma attack….”

Demographics of Imperial County

People QuickFacts Imperial County California
Population, 2013 estimate 176,584 38,332,521
Population, 2012 estimate 176,768 37,999,878
Persons under 5 years, percent, 2012 8.1% 6.7%
Persons under 18 years, percent, 2012 28.6% 24.3%
Persons 65 years and over, percent, 2012 11.0% 12.1%
Hispanic or Latino, percent, 2012 (b) 81.2% 38.2%
Veterans, 2008-2012 6,631 1,952,910
Per capita income in past 12 months (2012 dollars), 2008-2012 $16,667 $29,551
Median household income, 2008-2012 $41,255 $61,400
Persons below poverty level, percent, 2008-2012 23.0% 15.3%