Indicators of Change: Exploring Demographic, Social, and Economic Trends across California Communities

/Indicators of Change: Exploring Demographic, Social, and Economic Trends across California Communities

The CAHRO Journal of Human Relations/Rights

Indicators of Change: Exploring Demographic, Social, and Economic Trends across California Communities

Article by Luis Sanchez

California Association of Human Resources Organizations (CAHRO) & California State University Channel Islands Sociology Program

Executive Summary:

One of CAHRO’s stated goals is to “build the capacity of organizations addressing human relations issues through information sharing, training, and technical assistance”.  This series of reports, a collaboration between CAHRO and CSU Channel Islands Sociology students, contributes to this goal by providing community stakeholders access to empirical results related to various forms of demographic, social, and economic changes taking place across select California counties from 2000 to 2016. Using data from the 2000 Census and 2012-2016 American Community Survey (ACS), we document trends taking place across four broad categories: racial and ethnic change, income inequality, housing inequality, and population aging. The goal is that CAHRO and its network affiliates can use these descriptive portraits to gain a better understanding of contemporary changes in their respective counties and identify particular areas of need. This series includes reports for the following counties:

  • Alameda
  • Orange
  • San Diego
  • Santa Clara
  • Kern
  • Riverside
  • San Francisco
  • Ventura
  • Los Angeles
  • San Bernardino
  • San Mateo

Sources: 1980, 1990, 2000 U.S. Censuses; 2012-2016 American Community Survey

California is currently a majority-minority state. Since 1980, the state’s Latino and Asian population continued to increase while the non-Hispanic white population substantially declined. Latinos (38.6%) and non-Hispanic whites (38.4%) currently represent California’s two largest racial-ethnic groups followed by non-Hispanic Asians (13.7%) and non-Hispanic blacks (5.6%). Despite the state’s increasing level of racial-ethnic diversity, our findings illustrate the persistence of income and housing inequalities faced by the state’s minority population. 

We find robust evidence that California’s black and Latino populations experience lower household incomes, homeownership rates, home values, and are severely underrepresented in the highest income groups (as measured by income quintiles). Although these racial-ethnic differences somewhat varied across the counties included in the study, we find that black and Latinos’ socioeconomic standing fell below that of the non-Hispanic white population. Still, we find numerous counties where the Asian population fares better than non-Hispanic whites in terms of median household income and homeownership rates (see example below for Santa Clara County). 

Source: 2000 U.S. Census and 2012-2016 American Community Survey

Concerning age structure, we generally find that most counties experienced increases in the proportion of their population comprised of those ages 65 years and older. We specifically measure these, and other age structure, trends using dependency ratios to compare the amount of youth (defined as those younger than 15 years old) and elderly (ages 65+) relative to those in the working-age population (ages 15-64 years old).  In most cases, counties exhibited increases in the elderly-dependency ratio while demonstrating decreases in their youth-dependency ratio, the latter reflecting statewide trends in declining birth rates (see example below for Orange County). Lastly, we construct population pyramids as an alternative way to visualize the widespread population aging taking place across California counties.

Sources: 2000 U.S. Census and 2012-2016 American Community Survey

In sum, our “Indicators of Change” reports work to educate community leaders and stakeholders about recent population shifts so they are aware of contemporary and emerging issues so they might work to enact policies to improve human relations and promote equitable opportunities for their respective communities. We hope these reports serve as important contextual resources so that various organizations and groups can have a better understanding of their local communities. Many of these demographic and economic trends have profound influences on social interaction and shape numerous life outcomes.    

Download Alameda County Report

Download Los Angeles County Report

About the Author

Luis A. Sánchez is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at California State University Channel Islands. He has a dual Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography from the Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on Latino populations with specific interests in housing tenure, neighborhood context, and immigrant settlement patterns in new destinations. His work appears in peer-reviewed journals such as Sociological Inquiry, Journal of International Migration and Integration, and Health & Place.

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