Human Development Report Shows Large Disparities Among Californians In The Areas Of Health, Education And Income - United Ways of California

Human Development Report Shows Large Disparities Among Californians In The Areas Of Health, Education And Income

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Report illustrates the markedly different opportunities and outcomes for California residents across geography, race and gender.

Los Angeles, CA
May 17, 2011

A new report released May 17, 2011 provides, for the first time, an easy-to-understand composite number that measures the well-being of Californians in the areas of health, education and income. A Portrait of California uses the internationally recognized Human Development Index to rank how Californians are doing against key benchmarks, broken out by demographic, geographic and other distinctions. This exhaustive report was prepared by the American Human Development Project, a nonpartisan initiative that seeks to move beyond an overreliance in the U.S. on GDP as a measure of well-being.

The American Human Development Index is calculated using standard government data that is weighted equally to come up with a composite score with 10 being the highest possible. These 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 standard of living/income. While California as a whole is doing better than the nation with a score of 5.46 vs 5.09, a great deal of variation exists across local geography, ethnicity and gender.

“The composite score for our state really only tells half the story. What is so critical about A Portrait of California is that it illustrates the widely divergent realities faced by California residents who, in many instances, live side by side,” said Peter Manzo, President & CEO of United Ways of California, which helped to fund the report. “For instance, the report can tell us how African Americans in the Bay Area compare to their white counterparts, or how Latinos in LA are doing, compared with Latinos in Fresno, or how women in Los Angeles have done compared to the well being of a typical American from 30 years ago. The American Human Development Index gives us a more complete view of how people are doing. Health, education and income results and challenges affect real people in combination, yet too often we try to focus on one factor in isolation.”

A Portrait of California explores the state of human progress within California, ranking according to the American Human Development Index (HDI) the major racial and ethnic groups, women and men, native- and foreign-born residents, and the 233 neighborhood and county groups across the state for which there is reliable U.S Census data.

The report ranks the five most populous metro areas in the state—Los Angeles ( 5.52), Sacramento (5.66), San Diego (5.80), San Francisco (6.97), and Riverside-San Bernardino (4.58), as well as the San Joaquin Valley region (3.84). It also sorts the findings into “Five Californias,” which are not geographic designations, but rather groupings of California residents in terms of their life circumstances and rankings on the HDI. These include:

  • Shangri-La – HDI score of 9.35 – the top 1% of the population living in two neighborhood and county groups. These are extremely well-educated entrepreneurs and professionals.
  • Metro-Coastal Enclave California – HDI score of 7.92 – making up 18% of the population in 46 neighborhood and county groups. These are the affluent, credentialed, and resilient knowledge workers enjoying comparative financial comfort and security in upscale urban and suburban neighborhoods.
  • Main Street California – HDI score of 5.9 – representing 38% of the population in 91 neighborhood and county groups. These are “middle class” suburban and ex-urban residents across the state who have longer lives, more education, and higher earnings than the typical American, but face an increasingly tenuous grip on middle class life.
  • Struggling California – HDI score of 4.17 – representing 38% of the population in 83 neighborhood and county groups, can be found across the state, from the suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas of the Central Valley to parts of major metro areas and the Inland Empire to swaths of Northern California. Struggling Californians work hard but find it nearly impossible to gain a foothold on security.
  • The Forsaken Five Percent – HDI score of 2.59 – Californians with the lowest American HD Index scores in 11 neighborhood and county groups. Bypassed by the digital economy, left behind in impoverished LA neighborhoods as well as in rural and urban areas in the San Joaquin Valley, these Californians face an extremely constrained range of opportunities and choices.

Other key findings from the report include:


  • Life expectancy is longer in California (80.1 years) than in the nation as a whole (78.6 years).
  • The range of life spans across California is 15.3 years, with the high and low— the Newport Beach/Laguna Hills area (88.1 years) and Watts (72.8 years)—in same metro area, LA.
  • The foreign-born outlive the native-born by almost four years in California.


  • Nearly 44 percent of Latino adults in California do not have a high school degree—almost triple the state average.
  • For every 100 men who get a bachelor’s degree, 134 women do.
  • Just 100 of California’s nearly 2,500 high schools account for nearly half of the state’s dropouts.
  • Over 50 percent of California public school children are Latino; 27 percent are white; 11.6 percent are Asian American; 6.9 percent are African American; and less than 1 percent are Native American.


  • A gap of $58,000 in median personal earnings separate the top earners in the Santa Clara–Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos area (about $73,000) from the lowest earners in the LA–East Adams–Exposition Park area (about $15,000)—a gap double the median personal earnings for the country as a whole.
  • The median household income in The Forsaken Five Percent is $34,000; in no California county is that household income sufficient to make ends meet.
  • Men earn more than women in every racial and ethnic group. White men earn the most by far, with median earnings of $48,000. Latina women earn the least at $18,000—earnings on par with those of the typical American worker in 1960, half a century ago.

A Portrait of California also highlights things that Californians can do to lock in human development successes today while setting the stage for significant budget savings and improved well-being tomorrow. These include investing in public health campaigns and food subsidies for fruits and vegetables; investing in preschool and targeting the worst performing high schools that have the highest dropout rates; and taking steps to address gender equality and wage discrimination in the workplace.

Manzo further said: “United Ways throughout the state work to increase opportunities for Californians in the areas of health, education and income, so this report really hits home and reinforces why we do the work we do. It also underscores what we’ve learned from experience: You simply cannot address these core issues separately. Instead, to address any one issue effectively – education, for example – you have to see and address the links between all of them.”

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