A Tale of Five Californias – and How to Bring Them Together

“Out of the Spotlight” Posting for May 23, 2011

California, the Golden State, is home to both 14k lifestyles and dust-bowl style deep poverty. While the tale itself is far from novel, a unique new measure shows just how profound the difference within communities can be.


In Los Angeles, for example, life expectancy averages 88.1 years in Newport Beach/Laguna Hills, but only 72.8 years in the low-income Watts section of the city, according to data from the American Human Development Project, which this month releases A Portrait of California. The report uses the American Human Development Index, a composite measure of health, education, and standard of living, to measure how Californians are faring.


The report separates state residents into “Five Californias” according to where they rank on the Index, ranging from those in the top one percent with high levels of education and access to opportunities to those in the “Forsaken Five Percent” where people face a life expectancy of nine fewer years and limited options.


Along with the report, an interactive map tool allows people to see the narrative expressed through the numbers. A breakdown of how several cities perform along the index drives home the extreme levels of racial disparities in the state. The chart depicting median earnings across five California metro areas shows incomes more than twice as high for white people than Latinos in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. A Portrait of California also explores why these gaps in health, education, and living standards exist and the actions that can be taken to alleviate them.


As part of their national work, the American Human Development Project, in collaboration with United Way, developed an online tool called the Common Good Forecaster, which shows the impact of education on health, financial stability, civic engagement, children’s educational achievement, and other issues. Users can change the level of educational attainment to see how these factors shift at the state and county level and the concrete benefits that result from investments in education, many of which go beyond better jobs and bigger paychecks.


To learn more about the Common Good Forecaster and see a demonstration, join Spotlight for a webinar on June 3 from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. EST. Register here.


Posted by Jodie


Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn't always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and their impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or