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Southern California poverty rate on the rise; education could be key to recovery

A realtor sign advertises a bank-owned house for sale in Pasadena. The U.S. government filed a lawsuit in District Court in Los Angeles, accusing the debt rating agency Standard & Poor's of fraud for giving high ratings to risky mortgage bonds that helped bring about the financial crisis. 
 (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images
File: A realtor sign advertises a bank-owned house for sale in Pasadena.

Southern California is still climbing out of a massive economic hole following the recession. While unemployment rates are decreasing, the region's poverty rate continues to rise. More than 3 million SoCal residents are living in poverty — that's s 69 percent increase from 1990, according to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). 

So a group of about 400 business and political leaders met Thursday in downtown Los Angeles to discuss how to get the economy back on track. Led by SCAG, a planning group that represents six counties including L.A. County, the agenda focused on education. 

Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the group, said that Southern California lags behind the northern half of the state in graduation rates and median income. He said these two things are closely related.

“Don’t have high school diploma, you wont have access to the high-paying jobs that you need," said Ikhrata. "And therefore, Southern California is one of the worst places when it comes to poverty, actually.” 

He said that increasing the number of kids who graduate from high school and expanding job training opportunities is key to the area's economic recovery.  And in order to help this effort, the state has set aside $250 million in grant money. This will go towards helping community colleges and universities better prepare students for the workforce and higher paying careers.  

SCAG represents L.A., Ventura, San Bernardino, Imperial, Orange and Riverside counties. This is the fourth year the organization has held this economic summit. 

Below is the program from Thursday's event, including the summarized poverty statistics.