3.2 million residents in Southern California live in poverty, and 1 in 4 are children, according to census data released this week by the Southern California Assn. of Governments.

More than 3 million people in the six-county Southern California region lived in poverty in 2012, 18% of the total population, officials said Wednesday.

The figure represents a 69% increase since 1990, which is nearly three times the rate of population growth in the same period, said economists with the Southern California Assn. of Governments, a regional planning agency. One in four children were living below the federal poverty line.

The findings generally track earlier studies, including one released in September, showing more than one in four Los Angeles County residents and as many as 22% of all Californians live in poverty.

The group's economic advisors said the region's economy has begun to grow since the Great Recession ended in 2010, but described the recovery as "slow, uneven and inconsistent." About 800,000 residents remain unemployed, and although unemployment levels have dropped, none have returned to the low rates that prevailed before the Great Recession.

Los Angeles County, for example, may not fully recoup recession-era job losses until 2020, analysts said.

The planning group's advisors warned that the impact of joblessness and poverty could be worse because of the region's high cost of living, which is not factored into the U.S. Census Bureau's poverty numbers, the basis for their analysis.

Future job opportunities in construction, healthcare, finance, logistics and manufacturing show promise, the advisors said. But they said a growing educational achievement gap between Northern and Southern California residents threatened the recovery. 

The government planning agency has set an economic summit for Thursday at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel to discuss its advisors' forecasts.

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gale.holland@latimes.com