America's Second Poorest Big City is Right Here in Southern California: San Bernardino

A motel on Route 66 in San Berdoo.
A motel on Route 66 in San Berdoo.
Pete Zarria

We sometimes marvel at the amount of wealth found in Southern California. Using Forbes' figures, we noted in spring that "if California were a nation, it would rank fourth, behind the U.S., China and Russia, in billionaire population (a lucky 88)."

Many of the Golden State's billionaires are right here in SoCal.

But ... the San Bernardino Sun newspaper looked at the latest U.S. Census figures and found that some of the poorest people in the nation live right in the city of San Bernardino:

... 34.6 percent of the city's residents ... live below the poverty level, ranking it first in the state among those with a population of 200,000 or more and second nationally behind Detroit ...

The gap between rich and poor decried by the Occupy movement, then, has plenty of fodder for demonstrators right here in Southern California. Wall Street doesn't have much on us.

About 36 percent of the residents of the city of about 200,000 people make less than $25,000 a year, according to the Census.

San Bernardino is part of an Inland Empire decimated by the subprime real estate loan crisis that started the 2007 recession and led to thousands of people losing their homes.

Mayor Pat Morris told the paper, " ... Quite clearly we are (in) the poverty zone of Southern California."

The I.E. is a far cry from the poverty zones of the '80s and '90s, from South Los Angeles to the Eastside, from Santa Ana to San Diego's Barrio Logan.

Many inner city residents fled the poverty and violence of urban SoCal in the 1990s, seeking nicer homes, easy financing and better lives.

The city of San Bernardino is about 57 percent Latino, 50 percent white (some Latinos also identify as white) and 16 percent African American. (The latest Census data can be found here).

But the same lack of manufacturing jobs hit the I.E. too, including the demise of Norton Air Force Base in 1994 and Kaiser Steel in Fontana in 1984, the paper notes.

Kent Paxton, the director of the Mayor's Office of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, says it's time for the city to partner up with nonprofits to address the needs of the poor.

Yeah, it's that bad.


Sponsor Content


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >