Poverty in San Francisco

Human Services Agency

An estimated 10.4 percent of San Francisco residents were in poverty in 2022. Older residents (those 65 and over) are more likely to be in poverty than other age groups. Poverty rates also vary by race and ethnicity; most notably, Black and African American residents experience poverty at nearly three times the average rate. Women experience poverty at a higher rate than men.

The charts below show poverty status by age, race, and sex. Use the filters above the chart to change what is displayed.

How Performance is Measured

The federal government uses two standards to measure poverty that are slightly different: poverty thresholds and poverty guidelines. We use the federal poverty thresholds to report data about poverty in San Francisco, as reported in the Census and American Community Survey (ACS).

  • Poverty thresholds are more detailed and primarily used for calculating all official poverty population statistics. They are updated each year by the Census Bureau and used in surveys like the Current Population Survey and American Community Survey.
  • Poverty guidelines are a simplified version of the federal poverty thresholds used for administrative purposes — for instance, determining financial eligibility for certain federal programs. They are issued each year in the Federal Register by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Thresholds and guidelines vary by the number and age of adults and the number of children under age 18 in the family, but they are the same for all mainland states, regardless of regional differences in the cost of living. Both are updated annually.

The poverty guidelines are sometimes referred to as the “federal poverty level” or the “poverty line,” but these terms can be misleading because there are many potential meanings. The “San Francisco poverty line” may refer to the federal poverty guidelines, or to local income limits for eligibility in housing programs supported by the SF Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These limits are based on the area’s median income (AMI), unlike the thresholds and guidelines. For example, HUD defined “Low Income Limits in San Francisco as $82,200 for an individual and $117,400 for a family of four in 2018, based on 80% of the area’s median income. However, the federal poverty guidelines in 2018 were only $12,140 for an individual and $25,100 for a family of four.

The American Communities Survey data are typically updated in September every year and reflect the previous calendar year.

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Data

The poverty measure was updated through 2019 using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year estimates (Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months, Table S1701).  We are following the Census Bureau recommendation to not use the ACS 1-year experimental estimates for 2020 in comparisons with previous years. The  estimates “did not meet statistical quality standards and [the Census Bureau] decided ultimately to release estimate as an experimental product.”  The pandemic disrupted data collection and resulted in “non-response bias.” The characteristics of people who responded differ from those of people who did not. (“Census Bureau Releases Experimental 2020 American Community Survey 1-Year Data, Nov. 30, 2021, Press Release Number, CB21-TPS.13:  https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2021/experimental-2020-acs-1-year-data.html)

You can connect to the data behind this chart, as well as data for other Scorecard visualizations. Visit San Francisco’s open data portal to view or download the Scorecard Measures data set.

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