California’s Future Depends on Latinos’ Well-Being

Measure America

Imagine that you are sitting in a room filled with 100 young Latino children and 43 of them were asked to stand-up. What if I told you that 43 of those children standing represent the number of Latino children in California who will actually be pre-school educated? Furthermore, in a room filled with 100 Latino youth, what if I told you that 75 were asked to stand and they represent the number of Latino youth who will actually graduate from high school? That’s the current reality we are facing in California.

The newly released 2014-2015 A Portrait of California by Measure America paints this very picture in its report that measures well-being and access to opportunity for residents across California. The Latino Community Foundation recently held an event which brought together key-leaders to discuss this data, assess our states performance and steps we can take to solve these issues. As many of you know, California continues to flourish with an abundance of extraordinary assets, from our leading educational institutions, diversity in people, and innovation, to our superior agricultural productivity and beautiful landscapes. The report profiles five starkly different levels of well-being that Californians are experiencing, ranging from the thriving one-percent to the struggling and disenfranchised, who comprise nearly half of the population, and Latinos alone make-up the majority of these bottom two enclaves.

Using the HD Index, A Portrait of California ranks the state’s five most populous metro areas from lowest to highest using a single number on a scale from 0 to 10, which shows very different levels of well-being that Californians are experiencing from health, education, to standard of living. Although Californians have slightly higher attainment levels of high school education and professional degrees than the national average, California has the second-highest share of adults who lack a high school diploma, most of which happen to be Latino. Another important point to note is that, women overall lead in both health and education, yet when it comes to earnings, women are not faring well, especially Latina women. Progress in human development since 2000 has shown that Graduation and enrollment rates of U.S-born Latino adults are above CA average. Among Latinas, well-being increased 7 times faster than for white men.

According to the Human Development Index, an increase in educational attainment in California alone whether it be high school education or an associate’s degree would increase a households median personal earnings by more than $7,000, which means that nearly one million fewer Californians would live in poverty, and 1,200 fewer Californians would be the victims of murder each year. In short, education is shown to be the closest thing we have to a human development fix. Health, on the other hand goes hand in hand with a person born in California today is expected to live 81.2 years, more than two years longer than the national average. However, California experiences a Latino paradox in which Latinos outlive whites by 3.6 years despite having lower educational levels and lower rates of health coverage, primarily due to the fact that Latinos are more likely to have strong family ties and cohabitate together. This also gives us room to acknowledge the assets that permeate in our communities and the state overall.

So why does this matter altogether? Where does this leave us? And what can we do about it? We can see that the benefits of education and health add up, not just as individuals but that impact trickles down to our families and communities. For a society as a whole, a more educated population correlates to less crime, better tolerance, public savings on remedial education, and more civic participation. These are issues that matter to us all and the will to improve them rests on all of us. California is now on a path toward stabilization and prosperity. A Portrait of California is an essential tool in developing helpful solutions that improve community infrastructures that have the power to create a better future for our state.

We encourage you to learn more about the actions that you as an individual, community or organization can take to begin implementing promising steps. One thing is for sure, that we can reduce poverty with the right interventions and ensure that living a prosperous life isn’t just left for a few but for everyone in the Golden State.

During a recent CommunityConversaciones event held at the Latino Community Foundation, co-directors of Measure America Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis were invited to discuss the recently released report 2014-2015 A Portrait of California. We were joined by two key-leaders Omar Carerra, Executive Director of Canal Alliance and Oscar Chavez, Assistant Director of Sonoma County Human Services Department. Both highlighted tools they have taken to implement these solutions in their own communities.

The report also offers some solutions for increasing HD Index scores and creating conditions that influence health equity:



If you would like access to the full report and learn more about specific actions that you can begin to employ, click here. A Spanish translation is also available via this link: Un Retrato de California.