(TNS) — Since 2010, California has made substantial progress on providing its residents with broadband Internet and increasing the number of people with college degrees. Yet, over the same period, the state has not made a dent in improving housing affordability or home ownership.
Commutes are getting longer, and in the areas like the Central Valley, nearly half of households still don't make enough to meet their basic needs.
Those are some of the takeaways from the California Dream Index. The index, launched Dec. 3 by nonprofit California Forward at its annual California Economic Summit, aims to track the state's fight against economic inequity.
Overall, California still has a lot of work to do, California Forward CEO Micah Weinberg said. He said he hopes the index will better inform policymakers and community leaders on whether their actions are making a difference. "We saw year after year, California was holding itself up as a leader in equity and causes of social justice, but it just wasn't reflected in the data," he said. "We needed a tool to really be the basis of a collective action, to make real progress on reducing poverty, on reducing racial disparity."
The index is an aggregate of ten indicators, from air quality to household income. Data behind each of those indicators is available on the index's website, broken down by region and county, as well as income, race and ethnicity and education.
California Forward chose those indicators to look broadly at how people are doing and how much economic opportunity is available for them, Weinberg said.
"We'll use this index as aggregators of the measures of equity," said Debbie Chang, president and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation who introduced the index.
Overall, out of a 100 point scale, the overall index for California stood at 60, no change from 2010.
But disparities appear when breaking down the index by income.
The index stands at 47 for those making less than $25,000, a three percentage point drop from 2010. But for those making more than $100,000, the index stands at 56, a six percentage point increase from 2010.
Asian, Latino and white Californians gained in the index from 2010, while Black Californians' score dropped.
"Choices we have been making have not been the right ones to promote equity in the state," Weinberg said.
Weinberg also said looking at specific indicators can tell a story.
Despite its reputation as a place with a low cost of living, the Central Valley has more households paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent than the Bay Area, according to the data used in the index.
"We believe this narrative that the coasts are unaffordable and the Inland California is affordable, but that's not true," he said. "Actually, the cost of living is lower in inland California, but the incomes are so low that people are struggling to get by."
The index does not yet include the data from 2020. But Weinberg said he expects this year's data to show the pace of widening inequality continue, if not accelerate.
"Everything we looked at in 2020 has suggested the inequality has gotten significantly worse because of the COVID crisis," he said.
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