A huge proportion of the state`s population is mired in stubborn poverty, according to a recent analysis of 2010 census data.
Dan Walters: Latest numbers reveal two-tier California, Sacramento Bee, May 18, 2011
A quarter-century ago, I wrote a series of articles about California`s megatrends that transmogrified into a book, "The New California: Facing the 21st Century."
My chief premise was that intertwining cultural, demographic, economic and political forces were radically transforming the state.
I quoted one academic study that saw "the possible emerging of a two-tier economy with Asians and non-Hispanic whites competing for high-status positions while Hispanics and blacks struggle to get low-paying service jobs."
Last week`s release of detailed 2010 census data and this week`s unveiling of a massive statistical study of Californians` educations, incomes and health confirm that what was theory in 1985 has become reality.
The census tells us that the state`s rapidly growing Latino population will surpass a declining and aging white population to become its largest ethnic group within a few years.
Meanwhile, data from "A Portrait of California," a 170-page statistical study from the Social Science Research Council, reveal a growing gap of personal well-being between a relatively small white and Asian overclass and a largely black and Latino underclass.
Both sets of data also confirm that there is a large geographic component to California`s socio-economic stratification.
The research council`s study, backed by foundation grants, developed a 1 to 10 index of well-being and applied it to communities and to ethnic, gender and geographic subgroups. It concluded that there are five distinct strata.
At the top, 1 percent of Californians live in "Shangri-Las" in and around Silicon Valley and portions of Southern California with an index of 9.35.
They`re followed by 18 percent in a "metro-coastal enclave" (7.82), 38 percent in "Main Street California" (5.91), another 38 percent in "struggling California" (4.17), and finally, "the forsaken 5 percent" in central Los Angeles and rural areas (2.59).
"The analysis reveals that some Californians are enjoying the highest levels of well-being and access to opportunity in the nation today, while others are experiencing levels of well-being that characterized the nation decades ago," the report declares.
It cites these details:
Two tiers indeed.
- Asian American women have a life expectancy of 88.6 years, 18-plus years longer than African American men.
- A "stunning" $58,000 gap in median personal earnings exists between Silicon Valley residents and those in East Los Angeles - $73,000 a year in the former and $15,000 in the latter.
- While only about 7 percent of white adults lack high school diplomas, it`s 45 percent of Latino adults in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. More than half of public school students come from families in poverty, and just 100 of the state`s 2,500 high schools produce nearly half of its dropouts.