SAN MARCOS — A Carlsbad-based research firm found significant economic disparities between coastal and inland communities within North County, according to an April 10 report released at an economic summit hosted by California State University-San Marcos.
The report, “North County Indicators,” released by BW Research Partnership, provides a detailed assessment of the region’s economic health by identifying 40 key indicators in the region — population growth, healthcare and innovation — supported by more than 70 data sets.
According to the report, North County’s population of 1.2 million people earn a median household income of $85,000. The region is classified as the 48th largest state and 10th biggest city in the country.
But the median income for inland North County from San Marcos to Borrego Springs is just above $62,000 per household.
By comparison, the southwest coastal portion of North County — Del Mar to Encinitas — has a median household income of nearly $122,000.
“The growing disparity in income will continue to exacerbate the housing affordability challenges and will likely impact the available workforce as younger and less affluent workers find it harder to live and work in the region,” reads the report.
The economic disparity trickles down to the K-12 classrooms as well, with more than 56.1% of inland North County students qualifying for free lunch.
California’s Department of Education’s economic threshold for free lunch qualification is $32,630 for a four-person household and $27,014 for a household of three.
Only 12.1% of students in the southwest coastal quadrant of North County receive free lunch.
In higher education, 70% of the southwestern coastal portion of North County’s residents aged 25 to 64 have at least a bachelor’s degree, while less than 30% of those within inland North County have achieved the equivalent.
“So you have, really, these significant differences in terms of educational attainment within North County alone,” said Josh Williams, BW Research’ president and principal researcher. “And we can really see that in some of the outcomes.”
The average price of a house in North County, the report details, can run buyers a median price of $770,616. But a home in the southwest portion has a median price of over $1.2 million.
While the sticker price of homes has alarmed some of the report’s authors, they point to the percentage of annual income homeowners and renters pay for housing as more worrisome.
“In several zip codes in North County over 60% of households are spending over 35% of their total household income on rent,” the report states. “While overall housing affordability is important, the ability for current and potential workers to find housing is a particularly relevant subset of the larger affordability question.”
The biggest employers are the health care industry, biotechnology, defense and aerospace industries and craft beer. Over 20,000 people work in health care and biotechnology alone, the report shows.
In his presentation, Williams expressed optimism about the future of craft beer in the region, downplaying the possibility of it as an economic “bubble.”
“No longer is Budweiser the staple when you go to a friend’s house,” said Williams. “It’s local brews.”
Funded by San Diego County Neighborhood Reinvestment Grant program, the San Diego North Economic Development Council wrote that it aims to “spark more informed conversations about the region’s future.”