Our newest report finds that demographic change has been so rapid in San Leandro, CA, that perceptions of community needs have not kept up with these shifts. Created for the City of San Leandro’s Recreation and Human Services Department, our report provides an analysis of human service gaps in the city. Human services help vulnerable people, particularly people struggling with economic insecurity, to meet their basic needs, so identifying vulnerable populations in San Leandro was a key part of our analysis.

Our research found that:

  • The number of residents in poverty has jumped by 86%;
  • There is no longer a single racial group in the majority;
  • Incomes are the second-lowest in Alameda County; and
  • Children under 18 have the highest rate of poverty of any age group, 13.8%.

Race & Ethnicity

San Leandro sits between Oakland’s southern border and another small city, San Lorenzo and has a total population of 89,351. The city is increasingly racially diverse, with no single group in the majority. Asians were the largest group (32%), followed by Latinos (27%) and Whites (24%), and African Americans (12%) during the period from 2011-2015.


From 2000 to 2011-15, the number of people in poverty in San Leandro rose 86%: from 5,000 to approximately 9,300. People in poverty living in suburbs face particular challenges because the safety net is less well developed in suburban communities, public transit often is less dense, and stigma around seeking services can be higher than in cities.
San Leandro’s median household income is the second-lowest in the county, according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. In the 2014-15 school year, 57.9% of students San Leandro Unified School District were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, well above the Alameda County average of 43.7%.

Poverty rates are highest for Latino, African American, and Asian residents of San Leandro, among whom roughly one in eight are below the poverty level. Asians comprise the largest number in poverty (an estimated 3,335), followed by Latinos (estimated at just under 3,000). While the poverty rate of white residents is just over half the rate for Latino and African American residents, whites are the third-largest group of San Leandro residents in poverty (estimated at just over 1,400).

San Leandro children under 18 have the highest poverty rate among age groups (13.8%) and elders age 65 and over have the lowest poverty rate (8.2%). Children under 18 are the second-largest age group among people below the poverty level at just over 2,500, while the largest group of people in poverty are neither children nor elders, but adults ages 35-64 (nearly 3,700 people).

Although seniors have the lowest poverty rate among age groups, three groups of San Leandro seniors are particularly vulnerable:

  • Senior renters, who face high rates of housing-cost burden and are vulnerable to food insecurity
  • Seniors who speak Asian languages (most commonly Cantonese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese) or Spanish at home, the majority of whom speak English less than very well
  • Grandparents raising their grandchildren, who comprise 7% of San Leandro’s households with children, and are particularly likely to face financial hardships

The federal poverty guidelines do not take into account regional variations in the cost of living, so the poverty rate understates the extent to which people in high-cost regions like the Bay Area are struggling to make ends meet. According to the Self-Sufficiency Standard for Alameda County, in 2014 a family with two parents working full time with one preschooler and one school-aged child would need an income of $63,979 to adequately meet its basic needs, 268% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines ($23,850 for a family of four).  An estimated 30% of San Leandro residents had income below 200% of the poverty level 2011-2015.

We also identified other populations facing human services gaps in San Leandro and these include:

  • People with disabilities
  • Homeless families
  • Young children
  • Transition-age youth
  • Immigrants

See the full report for a more on vulnerable populations in San Leandro, as well as an analysis of gaps in human services and policy recommendations.

Download Report.

About the Author:

Spike has research experience in community development, housing, criminology, spatial epidemiology and reentry issues. He speaks nationally about data driven decision making and was chosen as one of Next American City’s Vanguard class of 2012 and honored as a White House Champion of Change in 2013. He’s a dad, husband and co-author for the new book on open public data: Beyond Transparency.

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