54% of Latino men in L.A. County fear going hungry

los angelesWhile the Census Bureau’s decision to begin issuing poverty rate statistics that include cost of living has established California as the state with the highest percentage of impoverished residents, most media coverage hasn’t focused on the more specific poverty statistics that show Los Angeles County has the largest concentration of poverty in the nation.

The Census Bureau estimates that 23 percent of state residents meet its alternative definition of impoverished. A 2011 study done by the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, which also took into account cost of living, put L.A. County’s poverty rate at 27 percent. With the cost of rent ballooning since then, that figure may be low. But the established data suggest that at least 2.7 million of the county’s 10.2 million residents are in poverty. That’s about the same number of people as the population of Chicago — America’s third-largest city.

Now a new study by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, with the help of public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, has come along that puts a face on this poverty and what it means to have so little money in a place as expensive as Los Angeles County. (Here’s the UCLA summary; here’s a slideshow.) It’s based on interviews with 1,401 county residents.

Perhaps the harshest finding was the extent of economic insecurity among Latinos, the largest ethnic group in the county. Some 44 percent of Latinos, and 54 percent of Latino men (including those of all incomes) worried about going hungry, more than double the rate of any other ethnic/racial group. Also, 44 percent of Latinos worried about going homeless, much higher than any other group, including a majority of men.

Economic fears extend to households making $90K

Other findings:

  • 29 percent of all those surveyed feared becoming homeless and 31 percent worried about not having enough money for food. Almost one in four households making $60,000 to $90,000 a year — 24 percent — worried about going hungry.
  • Latinos were far more concerned about the cost of living, especially housing, than any other ethnic group. Satisfaction with housing costs was highest among people over 65.
  • Unhappiness with the quality of life is highest in the inland area stretching from the San Fernando Valley south through central Los Angeles to the communities surrounding Interstate 5 in south Los Angeles.

Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told the Los Angeles Times that the survey findings were a stark reminder of “the clear differences by class, by economic standing, even more so than the racial divide. … Economic differences seem to be the fault line in our county. It really paints a picture of a Los Angeles that is two worlds.”

Blacks, whites most likely to be upset with public schools

On racially tinged questions, the UCLA study had some results that may surprise.

  • Despite years of reports about problems with English-language learner programs, Latinos were far less likely than African Americans to be upset about the quality of public schools. Blacks, whites, college graduates, people with post-college degrees and people with household incomes more than $150,000 were most consistently critical. High school dropouts were most satisfied with public education.
  • Despite a perception of racial gaps on the state of race relations, the UCLA study showed, on a scale of 1 to 100, “almost total agreement … [among the] county’s whites (78), Latinos (75), African Americans (77) and Asian-Americans (74)” about the quality of their relations with other ethnic and racial groups.
  • African Americans and whites are most worried about the negative effects of immigration.

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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