Fallbrook, CA Area Household Income

Much is currently being made of the 15.6% decline in Fallbrook median household income from 1990 to 1996, so I wanted to understand Fallbrook's income distribution a bit better. The data in most of the plots below come from the wonderful website of the SANDAG Regional Information Systems. Charles Rynerson of SANDAG kindly supplied the historical data for the Fallbrook and San Diego County household median income.

SANDAG is the San Diego Association of Governments, which is one of the most useful such governmental organizations that I have seen. SANDAG gets their income data from California state tax returns.

The plot on the left below shows the household income distribution of Fallbrook and of San Diego County as a whole for the latest available data from the tax returns, filed for the 1996 year in 1997. To a first approximation, the Fallbrook household income distribution is quite similar to that of San Diego County.

Looking closer, Fallbrook has a slight deficit of incomes between $35 K and $50 K, and a slight increase in incomes between $15 and $25 K. I conjecture that this is caused by the deficit of native Fallbrook residents with ages from 20 to 40 and by the additional relatively-low wage agricultural workers. (See Fallbrook demographics for more information.)

The plot on the right below shows the household income distribution of other North County cities as well. Again, to first order the curves are similar. The slight differences show that Fallbrook clearly has the highest percentage of the population with the highest and very lowest incomes, and again a significant deficit of middle incomes.

(Click on graph for bigger and better image.)

(Click on graph for bigger and better image.)

Such household income distributions are commonly reduced to a single number, the median household income, the dividing line such that half the households earn more than this number and half earn less. The leftmost plot below shows the median household income for North County cities, and the rightmost plot shows how the Fallbrook median household income has changed with time, normalized to the San Diego County household income.

Note the differences in scale for these two plots. The scale has been expanded in the leftmost plot to more clearly show the differences between the communities. In fact, the mean household income is nearly identical among the communities. The full range of scale from 0 has been retained in the rightmost plot to more clearly show how small the variation is in the ratio of Fallbrook median income to San Diego County median income.

(Click on graph for bigger and better image.)

(Click on graph for bigger and better image.)

Note that Fallbrook has the highest median income among North County communities, which is being entirely lost in the current weeping and moaning over the recession's effect on Fallbrook! But the real story is that Fallbrook, and probably most of North County, has gone from having a median household income about 10% higher than San Diego County in the 1970s and 1980s to having a median household income a few percent lower than San Diego County.

However, income distribution histograms don't tell the full story. Fallbrook demographics show that Fallbrook has a significantly higher percentage of retirees than San Diego County and other North County communities. Retirees tend to have a lower household income, but tend to own their own home free and clear, and thus have lower expenditures. Thus for the same level of income, retirees often have a higher disposable income.

The main conclusion I reach from the above data is that the household incomes in Fallbrook are very similar to that of North County and San Diego County as a whole, and cannot be blamed for any "comparative disadvantage" for Fallbrook businesses versus the businesses of other communities.

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Copyright © 1998 by Tom Chester.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 29 March 1998.