County's 'Portrait' Not A Big Surprise - United Ways of California

County’s ‘Portrait’ Not A Big Surprise

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ventura County Star
May 22, 2011
By David M. Smith

When “A Portrait of California” was released last week, the results detailing the nitty-gritty of Ventura County’s socio-economic profile were hardly a big surprise.

As background, the state “portrait” uses an internationally-recognized Human Development Index to rank how state, regional and local residents and communities are doing against key national benchmarks, broken out by demographic, geographic and other distinctions.

The report, prepared by the American Human Development Project, features an index that is calculated using standard government data weighted equally to come up with a composite score with 10 being the highest possible ranking.

The measurements include life expectancy at birth and mortality rates to measure health, age of school enrollment and educational degree attainment to measure education and median earnings to measure people’s standards of living/income.

These were some of the revealing — or not so revealing — statistics:

In the health arena, a child born in Ventura County today is expected to live exactly 81 years, which is approximately one year more than the average Californian and 2.4 years longer than the average citizen in the United States.

Interestingly, the life expectancy in Oxnard — which has a lower income level — is 82.6 years compared to 79.6 years in Moorpark and Simi Valley, both communities with higher incomes than our county’s largest city.

In the field of education, our county has both strong and weak points to consider:

  • In Thousand Oaks, nearly half of all adults have, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree.
  • Nearly 40 percent of adults in Oxnard never completed high school or attained an alternative high school level degree, more than 23 percent below the national average.
  • Only 80 percent of people aged 3 to 24 in Oxnard are currently enrolled in school, more than 10 percent below the California average.

On the income front, the statistics are hardly surprising:

  • The median salary in Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks is more than $42,500.
  • The median salary in Oxnard and Santa Paula is slightly above $25,000.

Numerous studies through the years have compared the overall complexion (or complexity) of our county’s cities.

According to the Human Development Index our county fares well versus the national and state scores, which are 5.09 and 5.46, respectively. Thousand Oaks, for example, tops the local list at 7.48, followed by Camarillo at 6.97, Moorpark and Simi Valley at 6.19, Ventura at 6.03, Santa Paula at 4.83 and Oxnard at 4.33.

With that backdrop, I am pleased to report that much of the work United Way of Ventura County is involved with in the focus areas of education, income and health speaks directly to the types of statistical concerns identified in the “Portrait of California.”

For example:

  • In the income area, United Way’s leadership in a countywide financial empowerment partnership resulted in volunteer/free income tax preparation services for more than 950 lower-income individuals and families this year resulting in more than $1.4 million in tax credits and refunds to help those lower-income tax filers.
  • In the health care area, United Way’s support of the FamilyWize discount prescription drug program has enabled lower-income families to reap the benefit of more than $310,000 since the program was introduced four years ago.
  • In the education area, United Way’s partnership with First 5 Ventura County has promoted the expansion of Born Learning, a public engagement campaign to help parents, grandparents, caregivers and communities create early learning opportunities for young children, including through the construction of three Born Learning Trails in Simi Valley, El Rio and Thousand Oaks.
  • Across all social service sectors, United Way’s partnership with Interface Children Family Services and First 5 Ventura County has resulted in the rapid growth provided by 211 Ventura County, a 24/7 social services hotline, which now offers assistance to 19,000 county residents annually.

“A Portrait of California” doesn’t provide answers to the future. Rather, the report speaks to opportunities to make a difference in communities such as Ventura County.

That’s why we are fortunate to have organizations such as the Ventura County Community Foundation, First 5 Ventura County, Ventura County Together, the county of Ventura, FOOD Share, and others working side-by-side with United Way — to make a real and lasting difference.

Together we can improve the slice of the “portrait” that is our home.

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