By: Masha V. Chernyak, Vice President of Programs and Policy, Latino Community Foundation. Photo of Faith in the Valley Staff taken by Bryan Patrick in the Central Valley.
The California Dream… is it still alive?
Fewer than half said yes. Here’s why:
The James Irvine Foundation funded PRRI Survey—“Renewed Struggle for the American Dream: 2018 California Workers Survey” shines a light on the working poor, now 1/3 of all Californians and the majority of working Latinos in the state (60%). Latino families feel the realities of this data every day— lack of affordable housing, childcare, healthy food, and clean water.
The disparities are especially troubling in the Central Valley, where 68% of all workers are struggling with poverty compared to 27% of the workers in the Bay Area. Surveyed Californians also reject the idea that hard work and determination are a guarantee of success. A majority (54%) of Californians say that hard work provides no guarantee of success for most people.
Most troubling — workers who are struggling with poverty report being far less active in political and civic affairs than the rest of Californians. Nearly 79% of those workers reported taking no civic action in the past 12 months. Out of all the groups surveyed, Latinos were the least likely to participate in activities such as contacting elected officials, attending public meetings or rallies, and engaging with the media. The lack of civic engagement and trust is not just a Latino issue. In fact, 70% of all Californians believe that public officials don’t care much about what people like them think. This shocking data should be a call to action, and a reminder that the future of our democracy is at stake.
As for the American Dream– nearly half (47%) of California residents say this is still true today, compared to 43% who say that the American Dream once held true but no longer does today, and 10% who say the American Dream never held true.
Despite the stark realities this data confirms, there is hope.
Although Latinos struggle the most economically, they are the most optimistic about the American Dream. Latinos are also more likely than their White counterparts to see college education as a smart investment and are less likely to say that young people should leave their communities for better opportunities. Overall, Latinos are a hopeful community and haven’t given up on the American dream. They believe in the value of hard work, education, and family.
As we read the data, we must accept that there is an economic and civic crisis in California—and we must look to the Central Valley and the Central Coast for solutions!
What the report doesn’t capture is the wave of change we are seeing in communities from Stockton to Watsonville as Latino leaders channel the power of their optimism to fuel community-led change. It was just this month that we met a brilliant Harvard educated Latina, Alicia Olivarez, who came back to her community to get out the Latino vote with 99Rootz and Power California in the heart of the Central Valley. It’s leaders like Jacob Martinez, Founder of Digital Nest, who are relentlessly pursuing tech opportunities for the farmworker youth in the heart of the Central Coast. It’s multi-ethnic and faith based organizations like Faith in the Valley and community organizers like Leticia Valencia who are building a new vision for California– one that doesn’t leave anybody behind.
Now it’s time for government and philanthropy to take notice and invest. The California Dream should not be reserved for a select and privileged few—but accessible for all.
Check out the PRRI Report here, funded by The James Irvine Foundation.