Majority in SLO County are wealthy, study finds

A majority of San Luis Obispo County families can call themselves rich, with an average household wealth of more than $420,000.

That’s according to a recent study of the county’s collective net worth.

The study’s main findings — besides measuring outright wealth — were the following: the county is relatively wealthier than most regions in the country, with net household worth of $35 billion; nearly a majority of households are worth more than $100,000; and the county’s wealth is not evenly distributed.

The study, commissioned by the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation to ascertain how much of that wealth might be funneled into charities and nonprofits in coming years, measured the county’s wealth by looking at assets such as stocks, bonds, investments and properties. It did not consider salaries and wages, because they are not usually counted as part of a household’s wealth.

The county’s net household worth of $35 billion in 2010 was not evenly divided across the region. Forty-seven percent of households were worth more than $100,000. Only 16 percent were worth from $35,000 to $100,000. And a sizable chunk of the households — 37 percent — had little or no wealth.

Wealth followed population centers and varied accordingly.

The South County was the wealthiest region — worth $9.78 billion — with more than 50 percent of households worth more than $100,000. Thirty-one percent of households were worth $0 to $35,000.

North County’s urban core was the second wealthiest, worth $9.32 billion. Here, too, about 50 percent of households were worth more than $100,000. Thirty percent of households were worth from $0 to $35,000.

San Luis Obispo’s more than 22,000 households were worth $8.6 billion. Despite its ranking, this part of the county had the largest population with little to no wealth. Fifty-three percent of households had $0 to $35,000 in wealth, while 47 percent had wealth worth $35,000 to $1 million.

The coast from Los Osos north came in fourth place with a net worth of $5.95 billion. This region had the largest proportion of households — 53 percent — with a net worth of more than $100,000. Thirty-three percent of households were worth $0 to $35,000.

The large and sparsely populated eastern region of the county had the least household wealth: $1.05 billion. Thirty-eight percent of households in the area had from $0 to $35,000 in wealth.

The study was conducted by the Rural Policy Research Institute’s Center for Rural Entrepreneurship and sponsored by Rabobank.

Contact Jonah Owen Lamb at 781-7931.