CA inequality much worse for Latinos than blacks

krs-kidsA new study of the state workforce by UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education shows income inequality rose steadily under both Democratic and GOP governors from 1979 to 2014.

That’s not a surprise, given that income inequality’s rise is a worldwide phenomenon. But one pattern jumps out from the various charts in the study: In California, income inequality is significantly more concentrated among Latinos than blacks, despite a perception of both groups facing similar economic straits.

Latinos make up 39 percent of the state workforce, but account for 56 percent of workers in low-wage jobs, defined as those paying $13.63 an hour or less. African Americans make up 5 percent of the workforce, but only 6 percent of those in low-wage jobs.

This illustrates a point made often by Charles O. Ellison, an African American political strategist who writes for The Root and other publications: Contrary to media imagery, blacks are more likely to be middle-class or wealthy than impoverished. The percentage of African Americans in poverty has fallen by more than half since 1960, although the net worth of middle-class blacks is far lower on average than middle-class whites.

In California, that pattern holds for African Americans but not for the Latino population, in which poverty is as common as middle-class status.

The UC Berkeley study dovetails with a point made by Gov. Jerry Brown about the urgency of improving educational outcomes for Latino students. It shows only 20 percent of people with college or advanced degrees have low-wage jobs.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California research, only about 14 percent — one in seven — of Latino adults have such degrees. That’s less than half the California average of 33 percent.

But while such degrees remain a path to the middle class, that trajectory is less certain than it used to be. According to UC Berkeley, in 1979, only 8 percent of low-wage jobs were held by people with college or advanced degrees. Last year, that figure was 13 percent.

That, too, reflects a national trend.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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