Governor Gavin Newsom’s website is crowned by his official slogan “California for All”.
“The Californian dream – the idea that everyone can live a better life, no matter where they start – is central to us as a Californian,” he explains. “Even in an era of economic growth and record employment, too many Californians are suffering from the pressure of stagnating wages and rising prices for basic needs such as housing, health care, education, and childcare. We can and must revitalize the California dream and create a California for everyone. “
Most Californians support this noble vision in the polls, but the reality is daunting. Last week Newsom called California “the richest and poorest state” and the gap is widening.
For example, we have the highest poverty rate in the country, as defined by a Census Bureau formula that includes the cost of living, with 18.1% or more than 7 million Californians impoverished.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, this doubles to 14 million if Californians are added to “poor regions” – a number that is practically identical to enrolling in Medi-Cal, our medical care program for the poor.
At the very edge of the subclass, there are 151,278 homeless Californians, according to the latest official figures, a growth of almost 17 percent in one year. But the official number is probably far behind reality, which can be two or three times as high.
Incidentally, our official number of homeless people is almost identical to the number of California households, which are among the top 1% of income. The one percent who pay almost half of state income taxes earn an average of $ 1.7 million a year.
A new PPIC report summarizes the gap in income.
“While the California economy outperforms the nation,” it says, “their income inequality exceeds that of all but five states. Families at the top of the income distribution in California have 12.3 times the income of families at the bottom ($ 262,000 versus $ 21,000 for the 90th and 10th percentiles in 2018, respectively, before tax and net safety programs. “
The gap widens, if at all.
“Since 1980, family incomes have increased 60% in the 90th percentile, while incomes in the 50th percentile (median) and 10th percentile have grown much less (24% and 20% higher than in 1980),” says PPIC,
The trends reflect fundamental changes in our economy – a decline in jobs, particularly in manufacturing, and strong growth in technology and other industries that require higher levels of education.
“For families in which a member has at least four years of graduation, the average income has increased by 30% since 1980,” PPIC continues. “It has decreased slightly for all other families. Families with four-year-old graduates earn $ 2.20 for every $ that non-graduate families earn. “
The income gap has a strong geographic component, with the greatest inequality to be found in the technology-intensive Bay Area, and a large ethnic factor with Latino and Black Californians being overrepresented in the lowest income cohort.
The income gap also reflects what educators call the “performance gap” among the state’s nearly 6 million K-12 students, with poor and English-learning students – especially Latino and black children – always lagging behind wealthier white and Asian children,
Mainly Newsom and other political leaders, all Democrats, have closed these gaps by throwing tax money on them, but these efforts are at best marginal gaps.
In the longer term, it is only approaching that makes California more attractive for job creation, improve educational outcomes, and reduce the barriers to housing that could actually fill the gaps.
CalMatters is a not-for-profit journalistic company dedicated to explaining how California State Capitol works and why. More stories from Dan Walters can be found at calmatters.org/commentary