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L.A. County poverty rate jumps for third straight year to 17.5%

Photo: A man sleeps on the sidewalk along San Pedro Street in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Luis SInco / Los Angeles Times About one in six Los Angeles County residents were living below the poverty line last year, according to new estimates from the Census Bureau.

It was the third consecutive year of increases in the county’s poverty rate, which rose from just under 15% in 2007 to 17.5% in 2010. In the same period, inflation-adjusted median household income plunged $3,658 to $52,684.

Taken together, the data from the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey provide a grim snapshot of conditions in the county after the recession officially ended in June 2009.

"We hoped that we would bounce out of the recession," said USC demographer Dowell Myers. Instead, he said, "The impacts of the recession are accumulating and escalating.... I would expect the data to be worse this year."

The one bright spot, Myers said, is that the poverty rate remains well below that recorded during the last recession in the early 1990s, when more than 20% of county residents fell below the poverty line. He attributed that to a more deeply rooted and resilient immigrant population than in the 1990s.

"Those were more recently arrived and more vulnerable" immigrants, Myers said.

Members of the Gutierrez family, for example, have struggled since they started to arrive in South Gate from Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1968.

"There was a time where all we ate was just pure fruit because that’s all we could afford," said 17-year-old Silvia Gutierrez, who stopped by a South Gate coffee shop this week with her mother.

Her father, who painted cars at an auto body shop, hasn’t worked since he suffered a back injury several years ago. Generally only one of the family’s five members has been employed at a time, making it difficult to make ends meet, Gutierrez said.


Census: Data show families changing

Census: Nearly 1in 5 Californians lack health insurance

Census: Hispanic population tops 50 million in United States

-- Alexandra Zavis, Ari Bloomekatz and Sandra Poindexter

Photo: A man sleeps on the sidewalk along San Pedro Street in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Luis SInco / Los Angeles Times

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