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Second California Human Development Report Reveals Almost Fifty Percent of Californians are Struggling or Disenfranchised

Report Ranks Health, Education, and Earnings among Major Metro Areas; Gender, Racial and Ethnic Groups; Native- and Foreign-Born Residents 

San Francisco, CA – Measure of America (MOA) released today the latest work in its Measure of America series, A Portrait of California 2014-2015. This is the second California Human Development Report, which measures well-being and access to opportunity for residents across the Golden State using the American Human Development Index (HD Index), a composite measure of health, education, and earnings. MOA is a nonpartisan initiative that seeks to provide insight beyond U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This year’s report has a special focus on California’s children.

Using the HD Index, A Portrait of California ranks the state’s ten most populous metro areas from lowest to highest using a single number on a scale from 0 to 10; the top five are: San Francisco (HD Index: 6.72), San Diego (HD Index: 5.59), Sacramento (HD Index: 5.47), Los Angeles (HD Index: 5.44), and Riverside-San Bernardino (HD Index: 4.59). The report also ranks the well-being major racial and ethnic groups (Asian Americans rank highest at 7.39, while Latinos rank the lowest at 4.09); gender groups (women and men are fairly even, though women outscore men in health and education while men are far ahead in earnings); native- and foreign-born residents (native-born residents outrank foreign-born residents by almost a full point); and neighborhood clusters (Mountain View, Palo Alto and Los Altos in Santa Clara top the list at 9.26, and the South Central and Watts neighborhoods of Los Angeles are at the bottom, with an HD Index value of 2.14). 

“If California were a country, its robust economy would qualify it for a seat at the G8. What happens in this state has national and even international significance,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, co-author of A Portrait of California. “That’s why it’s concerning to uncover that there are in fact five Californias – five starkly different levels of well-being that Californians are experiencing, ranging from the thriving one-percent to the struggling and disenfranchised, who comprise nearly half of the population.” 

“The American Human Development Index reveals mutually reinforcing inequalities in health, education, standard of living, environment, neighborhood conditions, and wealth that have created an opportunity divide in our society that higher wages alone cannot bridge,” added Kristen Lewis, co-author of A Portrait of California. “This comprehensive, actionable metric provides insight on how best to secure the future well-being and opportunity of California’s residents, namely by preventing problems from taking root in the early stages of childhood, by helping parents, and by investing in our children.”

A Portrait of California sorts neighborhoods into “Five Californias” according to where they fall along the
HD Index 10-point scale:
•    One Percent California, HD Index score of 9.28, comprises the top one percent of the state’s population in terms of well-being. Adults in this category are highly educated, highly paid professionals fueling the innovation economy and living primarily within six Santa Clara County towns: Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Cupertino, Saratoga, and Los Gatos. The median household income is $114,000 and life expectancy for this group is 86.2 years, five years longer than for the average Californian. One in three residents of “One Percent California” is foreign-born. Children from this grouping typically grow up with two parents with their needs for optimal development largely met. (Despite its overall high score, however, it is important to note that pockets of poverty exist within Silicon Valley);

•    Elite Enclave California, HD Index score of 7.84, accounts for 15 percent of the state’s population. They are predominantly affluent, educated professionals who reside in upscale urban and suburban neighborhoods of the state’s major cities. The good schools, safety, cultural amenities, easy commutes, prestige and neighborhood aesthetics that characterize this California come with a price tag that is out of reach to most people. The vast majority of children in this group bypass the types of hardships that impair child development and threaten future well-being;

•    Main Street California, HD Index score of 5.95, accounts for 39 percent of the state’s population. This group of Californians experience longer lives, higher levels of educational attainment, and higher earnings than the typical American. Main Street California is majority minority. After housing, childcare is the biggest expense for a family with two children. These costs have risen dramatically over 20 years, but wages have remained flat since the mid-1970s, forcing this group to make trade-offs among necessities;

•    Struggling California, HD Index score of 4.10, makes up 42 percent of the population across the state, from the suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas of the Central Valley to parts of major metro areas and the Inland Empire to swaths of Northern California. One in three children live in poverty; 37 percent of households with children are single-parent; and 18 percent of young people are neither working nor in school; and

•    Disenfranchised Californians, HD Index score of 2.54, comprise the final 3 percent of residents. This group is largely excluded from the formal economy, and left behind in socially isolated and often stigmatized neighborhoods in Los Angeles and rural and urban areas in San Joaquin Valley. Seventy one percent are Latino; one out of three is foreign-born; and nearly half (48.5 percent) of children live in poverty. This population faces innumerable impediments to living freely chosen lives of dignity and fulfillment. 


•    From 2000–2012, life expectancy at birth in California increased by 2.8 years to 81.2 years, longer than the national average.
•    The range of life spans in neighborhoods is nearly a dozen years; residents in parts of Santa Clara County, on average, live the longest (87 years), while residents of Twentynine Palms and Barstow in San Bernardino County live the shortest (75.3 years).
•    Latinos outlive whites in California by almost four years. 
•    African American men have the lowest life expectancy due to premature death rates related to heart disease, homicide, and cancer.  

•    If every California adult were immediately elevated by one education level (e.g. those with a high school diploma had an associate degree), nearly 1 million fewer residents would live in poverty, 1,200 fewer residents would be murdered each year, and 2.4 million more Californians would vote.
•    The number of adults without a high school diploma fell from 23.2 percent in 2000 to 18.5 percent in 2012.
•    Latinos have the lowest education score, lagging in school enrollment for residents ages 3 to 24 and the proportion of adults who’ve completed high school, a bachelor’s degree, or a graduate degree.

•    Median earnings (wages and salaries of typical worker) were 16 percent higher in 2005 than they were in 2012 ($33,305).
•    California’s agriculture feeds the nation, but the state’s crop workers struggle to put food on the table, with annual earnings that range from $15,000 to $17,500. 
•    Median earnings for workers in Fresno ($23,000) are slightly less than half what the typical worker in the San Jose metro area earns ($42,000). 
•    White men out earn white women by almost $18,000 – for Asian Americans, this gap is approximately $10,000, and for Native Americans, $4,000, both also in favor of men. 

A Portrait of California highlights actions that Californians can take to lock in human development successes today while setting the stage for significant budget savings and improved well-being tomorrow. These include changes in neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and governments to reduce the disparities in health, education, and earnings that divide Californians today; collaboration amongst institutions, agencies, advocates, and groups with a stake in the future of the state; and improving the lives of children and those who care for them.

For more information on A Portrait of California, please visit:

Supporters of A Portrait of California are the Blue Shield of California Foundation, California Community Foundation, The California Endowment, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Humantific For Good, The James Irvine Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, United Ways of California, and the Weingart Foundation. For an interactive map program and more information on A Portrait of California, visit:

About Measure of America and the American Human Development Index
Measure of America provides easy-to-use yet methodologically sounds tools for understanding the distribution of well-being and opportunity in America and stimulating fact-based dialogue about issues we all care about: health, education, and living standards. The hallmark of this work is the American Human Development Index. GDP tells us how the economy is doing. The American Human Development Index tells us how people are doing and empowers communities with a tool to track progress over time The Index is comprised of health, education, and earnings indicators and allows for wellbeing rankings for the 50 states, 435 congressional districts, major metropolitan areas, neighborhoods and counties, women and men, and racial and ethnic groups. 

About the Authors
Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis are co-directors of Measure of America. 
Previously, Sarah worked with the United Nations for over two decades, most recently as Deputy Director of the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Prior to this, she worked in China and in a number of African countries on gender issues and economic empowerment. Sarah holds an M.I.A. from Columbia University. Kristen also comes from an international development policy background, having worked primarily in the areas of gender equality, governance, environment, and water and sanitation. Kristen is co-author, under the leadership of Jeffrey Sachs’ Millennium Project, of the 2005 book Health, Dignity and Development: What Will It Take? She worked at the United Nations for some ten years and has served as a consultant for many international development organizations. Kristen also holds an M.I.A. from Columbia University.

Media Contact: Alexis Stoller, | (202) 997-9862