Office of the Controller - City Performance Unit
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2018 Child & Family Survey Economics

Nearly half of surveyed families had an income below 500% Federal Poverty Level

The financial status of families varied widely, but less than half of those surveyed (45%) had an income of 500% or more of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).[1] As noted, most surveyed families were in three or four-person households. Thus, approximately half of surveyed families had a household income of under $100,000 per year.[2] Seven percent of surveyed families had an income less than or equal to the FPL, which is $25,100 for a family of four.

Econ 1

The smallest and largest surveyed families had lower incomes, with 78% of one to two-person households and 58% of households with five or more people earning below 500% FPL, while 37% and 38% of households of three or four, respectively, earned below 500% FPL.

Econ 2

There were significant household income disparities across ethnicities

Though 45% of all surveyed families earned 500% FPL or higher, White respondents reported higher family income than respondents of other ethnicities.

One quarter of Black respondents (25%) reported a family income at or below the Federal Poverty Level, as did 13% of Latino and 11% Asian or Pacific Islanders. Zero percent of White respondents were in this group.[3]

Econ 3

Approximately eight in ten surveyed families in districts 3 and 6 lived below 500% FPL[4]

Econ 4

A majority of respondents had full-time employment

Of those employed part-time, 5% were looking for more work. Though full-time employment was high among those surveyed, nearly half of the fully employed group (47%) had a household income below 500% FPL.[5]  

Econ 5

Latino (71%) and White (72%) respondents both had higher rates of full-time employment than the citywide average, while Asian or Pacific Islander (61%) and Black (53%) respondents had lower rates.

Econ 6

Although 68% of all respondents were employed full-time, the number was significantly lower in certain regions of the city. Only 39% of respondents in district 3, and 43% in district 6, identified as being employed full time.


[1] It is important to remember that while income relative to the Federal Poverty Level is widely used as a qualifying metric for assistance programs, as a national measure it is not an accurate reflection of sufficiency in expensive regions such as San Francisco.

[2] Family income in San Francisco is slightly higher than California overall: according to census data, the State Median Income for a family of four is $88,343. MEDIAN INCOME IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS (IN 2017 INFLATION-ADJUSTED DOLLARS) 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates – California

[3] Respondents that declined to provide household income information are not included in this analysis, including a large portion (22%) of Latino respondents. This may mean income levels for this group are significantly different than reported here.

[4] Margins of error range from 6.1% to 13.0% for district-level data. However, the income differences seen in districts 3, 6, and 10 are large enough to be statistically significant.

[5] Respondents reported their own employment status but did not report the employment status of other adults in the household, meaning respondent employment may or may not relate to total household income.