Per Capita Income

Per Capita Income

What does this indicator measure?

This indicator measures the mean income in the past 12 months for every person in a particular population. It is derived by dividing the aggregate income of a particular group by the total population in that group. This indicator suggests the general level of economic development in a neighborhood.

The connection to health

Every household should be able afford the necessities of a healthy life—medical care, healthy food, quality housing, education, and other basics. Sufficient income allows households reliable access to the goods and services that are necessary for a healthy life.1 Research indicates that economic opportunity is one the most powerful predictors of good health, and that impacts on health are especially pronounced for people in or near poverty. Sufficient income can also help people avoid trauma and chronic stressors such as violence and insecure housing, employment, and food. These stressors have strong and long-term effects on both mental and physical health, and can even influence the health of one’s children and grandchildren.1,2, 3, 4, 5 Households that are economically stable are also less likely to face unemployment and perceived job insecurity, which are associated with depression, anxiety, and overall poor health.6, 7 Access to sufficient income also makes it less necessary for people to work long hours and/or multiple jobs, making it more possible to engage with their communities, cook healthy meals, spend time with family and friends, go to medical appointments, and participate in physical activity and other healthy activities.8, 9, 10 Finally, sufficient income makes it more possible to afford to live in places with healthy community conditions like parks, good schools, employment, clean air, and safe streets.1, 11

Where to start?

Raising per capita incomes requires a range of policy initiatives designed to ensure that residents are economically secure. California is one of the richest states (8th) in the U.S., with a median income of $75,235, a year. Yet it is also one of the states with the highest rates of income inequality (6th).21 Amidst overall prosperity, many neighborhoods have been left behind, and approximately nine million families and two million children live in poverty in California.16 Addressing low incomes and poverty requires action on multiple fronts. In the short term, local governments can Raise Wages and Benefits to help low-wage workers provide for themselves and their families. Predatory lending, medical debt, and other factors also make it increasingly difficult for many working-class families to keep what they earn and build wealth. The single largest predictor of wealth in the United States is the wealth of one’s parents, meaning that both wealth and poverty are often replicated across generations, and carry forward both past and current inequities.22 In fact, the median white family currently owns 13 times more wealth than a median Black family and 10 times more than the median Latino family, and this gap is growing.23 Local governments can help families keep what they earn and Build Wealth to reduce this gap. In the longer term, governments should Build Workforce Development and Pathways and Develop Community Economic Capacity to increase the number, quality and accessibility of jobs for local residents. Governments should also seek to Improve Transportation Access to Economic Opportunity for those in poverty.