San Diego Regional Quality of Life Dashboard

Is San Diego’s quality of life improving?

The Quality of Life Dashboard measures and benchmarks several environmental and economic trends throughout the region to ensure San Diego County is on a path to greater health, wealth, comfort and sustainability for current and future generations.

Overview About The Data Dashboard


High quality of life means the region boasts a thriving economy, a healthy environment, and is an equitable place for all San Diegans to grow and prosper.


Students standing on a rock on a crawford hikebeach during the day with birds flying by


We stand for stewardship of distinctive natural beauty and unique habitats: land, water, climate, and diverse ecosystems.

Two trolleys in front of a building downtown


We support a competitive and innovative economy that yields widely shared prosperity across the region.

hand holding plastic trash on beach


We believe in the fair and just distribution of societal benefits and burdens so all may thrive.

About the Dashboard

The Equinox Project is a nonpartisan policy initiative that inspires, informs and engages the public and decision-makers in crafting better solutions to regional challenges. Rather than focusing on just one issue, Equinox focuses on the intersecting issues that together shape regional quality of life. Equinox specializes in:
  • Tracking key environmental and economic indicators through our Regional Quality of Life Dashboard
  • Communicating data and policy research to inform the public and influence decision-makers
  • Engaging young adults to participate in regional environmental and economic issues to ensure a growing generation of informed and civically engaged residents (Learn more about Leaders 2020)

Originating in 2009 in the San Diego region, Equinox developed as a credible source for balanced public policy research and analysis. Although the San Diego region is still our main project area, Equinox is broadening its reach to other local governments and regions in California and beyond. 

The first San Diego Regional Quality of Life Dashboard was released in 2010 to shine a spotlight on questions that truly matter to San Diegans. Using environmental and economic indicators, the dashboard measures and benchmarks trends throughout the region tracking a central theme: Is the quality of life improving?

Drawing on strong relationships with nonprofit organizations, government agencies and the business community, we can provide a balanced snapshot of the region’s well-being using credible data, clear metrics and ongoing benchmarks. The dashboard tracks our region's progress on critical, interlinking quality-of-life issues and provides examples of where things are working and ideas for how we can improve.

This year's Dashboard aims to call attention to equity as a part of the story, as we can't fully discuss quality of life if we aren't thinking about our region's population holistically. Equity is both the fair and just distribution of societal benefits and burdens and the ability of underserved communities to influence decisions in a way that addresses their needs and concerns.

Another new focus for this year’s Dashboard is the research and projects being done by the Dashboard’s home, the University of San Diego (USD). As the standard bearer for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university, USD has identified six interconnected pathways that will help USD achieve its 2024 vision, including the Care for Our Common Home Pathway. This pathway demonstrates care for all creation and has become more critical as USD strives to become a leader in sustainability in all its aspects (environmental, social justice, economic benefits). By its very nature this pathway is designed to provide opportunities for faculty, students, staff and administrators to address the world’s greatest challenges. The Dashboard leverages USD student and faculty research in measuring and benchmarking the region’s quality of life trends.

About the Region

Boxed in by the nation’s second largest urban area, the world’s busiest international border and the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and Sonoran Desert, the San Diego region faces considerable stress in its efforts to maintain a high quality of life. Environmentally, we have tremendous biodiversity, climate zones varying from beaches to mountain tops and settings ranging from compact, inner city parks to open farmland. Economically, we cover the full range of the American experience and struggle to maintain our prosperity and share in our wealth. Only by measuring, tracking and benchmarking where our region’s been, where it is now and where it needs to go in the future can we hope to successfully manage, improve and balance our future quality of life – for all.

What Makes Our Region Unique

  • San Diego is the fifth largest county in the nation and the second largest county in California.
  • Our current population is around 3.3 million people and estimates predict we will grow to more than 4 million residents by 2050.
  • Beyond our residents, we host 35 million visitors per year who spend $10.8 billion and come for San Diego's beautiful weather, beaches and fun!
  • The San Diego region also is among the most biologically rich counties in the nation, according to The Nature Conservancy.
  • It is culturally diverse as well, sitting on the US border with Mexico, no single race or ethnic group comprises more than 50 percent of San Diego's total population. 

About the Border Region

The U.S.-Mexico Border spans 2000 miles connecting San Diego to Brownsville and Tijuana to Matamoros. The border region is a unique place that connects families, communities and economies. It is bi-lingual and bi-cultural, and according to the U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership, the border region is projected to increase its population by more than 25 million people in the coming decades. The political line that divides the State of California and Baja California creates unique opportunities and challenges for our region and its citizen’s quality of life. The two regions are inextricably connected when it comes to the environment and economy. For example, the San Ysidro Port of Entry is the busiest land port of entry in the western hemisphere with close to 15 million northbound vehicles processed in 2019. With high traffic comes increased vehicle idling times and as a result increased air pollution.

Over the past 10 years, the Quality of Life Dashboard has focused primarily on the San Diego region and presented a few data indicators under the Border Region indicator. In 2019, we have integrated the border data into more indicator sections such as unemployment, traffic and water quality to provide a binational context.

The Path Forward for the San Diego Region

Our Quality of Life in 2020

The year 2020 has become one of reckoning – as a time for reflection and hindsight about how we got to this point of crisis, as well as one for envisioning a new path forward. 

As the pandemic shows no sign of abating, the disruption wrought by COVID-19 is broad and deep. San Diegans are confronting systemic inequities which have been laid bare during this pandemic. Low-wage communities and communities of color have felt the disproportionate impacts of the unfolding public health and economic crises, exacerbated by poor air quality which has worsened with extreme heat and wildfires. Protests for racial justice and an increasingly polarized electorate are challenging all of us to find new ways for fostering meaningful dialogue where San Diegans can come together to find common ground with local data, information and analysis from trusted sources. 

For essential nonprofit workers and organizations that provide our community safety net and enhance our quality of life, they are grappling with how to best navigate the crises. They are facing unprecedented disruptions with a sharp decline in revenues that has forced a hollowing out of this essential workforce with a growing number of staff furloughs and layoffs. More broadly, they are reexamining their missions and asking painful questions about their role in perpetuating and addressing inequity.

Making sense of the crisis to find a way forward in a future full of uncertainty, we find this much is clear: everything is connected, including our shared vulnerability. This global pathogen and the compounding crises that have followed in its path have shown us how our health and well-being depends on how well we care for each other and, in turn, how we take care of our common home. Policies and practices that impoverish people and degrade our common home – Mother Nature - ultimately harm all of us. Only when we value our common humanity and protect the sanctity and interconnection of all life on the planet will our human family thrive. 

Our ongoing surveys of public opinion and leaders in nonprofits and philanthropy point to growing recognition that we can no longer work in silos to address our region’s greatest challenges. Basic shelter, food security, clean air and clean water all contribute to good health. Ensuring that everyone has access to quality education, healthcare, and safe, affordable transportation contribute to a diverse and vibrant workforce. Arts and culture and our great outdoors weave the fabric of our quality of life while driving our vibrant economy. Our region prospers when we come together in common cause for the good of all our communities. 

When our nonprofit sector continued to grow in spite of the ravaged economy during our last Great Recession, The Nonprofit Institute described it as “the resilient sector.” In the face of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty, many nonprofits have adapted quickly – finding new ways to collaborate, learn from one another, share capacity, and more effectively advocate together for those they serve at a time of great need. 

Local nonprofits will play a vital role in working together with business, government and our communities to forge our path forward out of the current crisis. By coming together and embracing our interconnectedness, we can prepare ourselves to face and overcome adversity as a more resilient community. Indeed, our future depends on it.