PPIC's Commentary RSS Feedhttp://www.ppic.org/en-usCopyright 2014 PPIC All Rights Reserved.Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:08:51 PSTPublic Policy Institute of California : Commentary Beyond the Drought: 10 Big Changes Ahead for California Water http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1428 <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=72"><img height="74" width="81" align="right" alt="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/StaffPhoto-Hanak.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px; margin-bottom: 5px;" /></a>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=72">Ellen Hanak</a>, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California<br /> <img src="/content/images/spacer_transparent_10x5.gif" title="" alt="" /><br /> January 13, 2014<br /> <br /> <br /> These days, all water news in California is focused on the weather. After two successive dry years, this year’s rainy season has yet to make a decent showing. Unless the skies open soon, the state seems firmly headed for a major drought, with serious implications for the farm economy, some water-scarce communities, and the fish and other species that depend on our rivers and streams. <br /> <br /> Periodic droughts are inevitable in California, given the state’s highly variable climate, and many scientists expect such extreme events to become more frequent with climate change. An essential part of water management in California is preparing for this inevitability—with <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1041">multi-pronged strategies that include water marketing, groundwater banking,</a> conservation, and investment in non-traditional supplies like recycled wastewater. Each drought provides an opportunity to get better at stretching scarce supplies and reducing the economic hardship caused by water scarcity, as <a href="http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_1209EHR.pdf">PPIC’s California Water Myths report</a> points out. <br /> <br /> I recently wrote a piece—with Jay Lund, PPIC adjunct fellow and UC Davis professor—for the UC Davis <a target="_blank" href="http://californiawaterblog.com/2014/01/07/resistance-is-futile-inevitable-changes-to-water-management-in-california/">Center for Watershed Sciences’ California WaterBlog that highlights 10 other inevitable changes</a> in store for California water. These changes range from vulnerable levees and uncertain water supply conditions in the Delta to deteriorating groundwater basins to the shrinking Salton Sea. To minimize hardship and disruption, most of the items on our top 10 list will—like droughts—require significant preparation and planning. This is often hard to do, given the tradeoffs and costs of most water management solutions. But we think that preparation is the best way to reduce the pain and develop a water policy that supports the kind of state Californians want, rather than wishfully thinking that California can avoid change. Mon, 13 Jan 2014 00:00:00 PST Are You a Have or a Have-Not? Californians’ Views http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1425 <table width="" align="" style="width: 360px; border-collapse: collapse;"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="vertical-align: top;"> <p>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=298">Dean Bonner</a>, research associate, Public Policy Institute of California<br /> <br /> January 8, 2014</p></td> <td style="padding: 0px; text-align: right; vertical-align: top;"><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=298"> <div><img width="90" height="81" style="margin-left: 15px;" src="/content/portraits/staffphoto-bonner.jpg" alt="" /></div></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table><br /> <p>As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, it’s clear that income inequality is an issue that resonates with Californians today. According to <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1077">the latest PPIC Statewide Survey</a>, a record-high 66 percent of residents said the state is divided into haves and have-nots. When asked to characterize themselves Californians are split, with 40 percent saying they are part of the haves and 45 percent saying they are part of the have-nots. But this split obscures a striking change since 2002, when 60 percent viewed themselves as part of the haves and just 32 percent viewed themselves as part of the have-nots.<br /> </p><img width="360" height="262" src="/content/images/blogpostgraphic_bonner_01-08-14-upper2.jpg" title="" alt="" /><br /> <span class="secondary_body"><span class="footer_copy">Sources: PPIC Statewide Surveys: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/survey/S_902MBS.pdf">September 2002</a> and <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1077">December 2013</a></span>.</span><br /> <br /> <p>The legislature is also taking notice and has established a <span style="font-weight: bold;"><a href="http://sd07.senate.ca.gov/news/2013-12-12-senator-desaulnier-launches-caucus-end-poverty-and-inequality-california"></a></span><a href="http://sd07.senate.ca.gov/news/2013-12-12-senator-desaulnier-launches-caucus-end-poverty-and-inequality-california">new legislative caucus</a> focusing on poverty and inequality. Part of the mission of the caucus is to increase economic opportunity for all Californians.</p> Wed, 8 Jan 2014 00:00:00 PST Californians and the Climate Gap http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1421 <table width="" align="" style="width: 360px; border-collapse: collapse;"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="vertical-align: top;"> <p>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=299">Sonja Petek</a>, research associate, Public Policy Institute of California<br /> <br /> December 3, 2013 </p></td> <td style="padding: 0px; text-align: right; vertical-align: top;"><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=299"> <div><img width="90" height="81" style="margin-left: 15px;" src="/content/portraits/staffphoto-petek.jpg" alt="" /></div></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table><br /> <p> Climate change will have an especially negative impact on racial and ethnic minorities and lower-income Californians, according to <span style="font-style: italic;"><a href="http://dornsife.usc.edu/pere/documents/The_Climate_Gap_Full_Report_FINAL.pdf ">The Climate Gap</a></span>, an important report by a team of university researchers. The effects of global warming—such as heat waves and increased air pollution—will have greater effects on disadvantaged communities. These communities may not have the resources to adapt to changing conditions and are likely to have fewer job opportunities if employment in agriculture and tourism diminishes. The findings from this 2009 report resonate today.</p> <p> It might seem that the immediate material concerns of disadvantaged Californians would make them less inclined to worry about environmental issues. <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/series.asp?i=12">PPIC Statewide Surveys</a> have found the opposite to be true: racial/ethnic minorities and lower-income residents are overwhelmingly concerned about global warming and among the most ardent supporters of policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.</p> <p><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1065">PPIC’s latest survey on the environment</a> found little doubt about the existence of global warming among Asians, blacks, Latinos, and lower-income residents. Majorities say the effects have already begun, and fewer than one in ten say they will never happen. Latinos, blacks, and lower-income Californians are more likely than Asians, whites, and those with higher incomes to express concern about impacts of global warming such as increased flooding and wildfires, droughts, and storms that are more severe. And they are far more likely to perceive global warming as a very serious threat to California’s future economy and quality of life.</p> <p> The high level of concern among racial/ethnic minorities and lower-income Californians goes hand in hand with their awareness of the climate gap. Among the state’s communities of color, Latinos and blacks in particular are mindful of environmental disparities. They are twice as likely as Asians and whites to consider regional air pollution a big problem, and far more likely to say that air pollution is an especially serious health threat in lower-income areas. Overwhelming majorities of blacks and Latinos say it is very important to spend some of the state’s cap-and-trade revenue to improve environmental conditions in disadvantaged communities, as state law now requires. (Far fewer Asians and whites hold this view.)</p> <p> These concerns and perceptions translate into overwhelming support for policy intervention. Latinos (88%) and blacks (83%)—along with Asians (78%)—are more likely than whites (65%) to say it is necessary to take action right away to counter the effects of global warming. There is strong support across all groups for California’s landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020: more than seven in ten Latinos and Asians are in favor, as are about six in ten blacks and whites. And overwhelming majorities of lower-income residents and racial/ethnic minorities support a variety of policies to reduce emissions—such as requiring industrial plants, oil refineries, and commercial facilities to reduce their emissions, or requiring oil companies to produce cleaner transportation fuels. Large percentages of whites are also supportive.</p> <p> California’s lower-income residents and communities of color have traditionally lacked a strong voice in statewide policymaking. But that may be changing. Now that whites are a minority of the state’s adult population, the environmental priorities of racial and ethnic communities could influence future policy in a way that helps close the climate gap.</p> Tue, 3 Dec 2013 00:00:00 PST Food Stamps and Poverty in California http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1412 <p><img width="91" height="82" align="right" alt="" title="" src="/content/portraits/staffphoto-danielson.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px;" />By <a href="bio.asp?i=315">Caroline Danielson</a>, research fellow, and Matt Levin, research associate, Public Policy Institute of California <br /> <br /> November 13, 2013 </p> <p> More than 4.2 million Californians who rely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, are seeing a reduction in their benefits this month. The 2009 federal stimulus bill had provided a temporary increase in these benefits—known as CalFresh in California—but this increase expired on November 1.</p> <p> How much smaller is the CalFresh benefit now? A family of four earning $1,750 a month (about $10 an hour for a full-time worker) received $296 in CalFresh assistance in October, but is now receiving $260. (<a href="http://californiabudgetbites.org/2013/10/30/looming-cut-to-calfresh-will-slash-households-food-budgets-drain-millions-of-dollars-from-california-economy/">This report</a> by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides additional background.)</p> <p> In light of this benefit reduction and the debates in Congress around further cuts to this program , it’s worth taking stock of the role CalFresh plays in bolstering the resources of low-income families here in California.</p> <p> Last month, PPIC and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality released the <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1070">California Poverty Measure</a> (CPM), a new tool for measuring economic hardship in the state. Unlike official U.S. Census poverty rates, the CPM includes CalFresh and other important safety net programs in its accounting of family resources. The CPM also incorporates the state’s high cost of living and other factors to create a more accurate assessment than the official poverty measure does of what it takes to make ends meet.</p> <p> The November cut was not large enough to markedly increase CPM poverty rates, but the CPM does show the substantial role that CalFresh plays in helping low-income families.</p> <p> When we consider programs targeted to these families, CalFresh is second only to federal refundable tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, or <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/about/programs/metro/eitc/eitc-homepage">EITC</a>, in lowering poverty rates. Without CalFresh benefits, the state’s overall poverty rate under the CPM would be more than two percentage points higher: 24.2 percent instead of 22.0 percent. What’s more, Californians’ participation in food stamps is <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/reaching-those-need-state-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-participation-rates-2010">low relative to other states</a>, implying that the program’s role in easing poverty could be even larger if more eligible Californians accessed the benefits.</p> <p> The difference CalFresh makes to the child poverty rate is even greater. The child poverty rate would be 29.2 percent—rather than our estimated 25.1 percent—if we remove CalFresh from family resources entirely. That amounts to an additional 380,000 children who would have fallen below the CPM poverty line in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. (To see how other elements of the safety net affect California poverty rates, take a look at this <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/page.asp?i=1398">interactive data visualization tool</a>.)</p> <p> Just how large a share of family budgets does CalFresh comprise? (By "budget” we mean all of the family’s post-tax resources, including income from a range of safety net programs). For families with at least one child, CalFresh benefits account for about 16 percent of the family budget, on average. (At 62 percent, earnings make up the largest share.) And CalFresh not only provides nutrition support, it also frees up other family resources to meet needs like transportation and housing.</p> <p> As the funding debate over food stamps continues, it is worth keeping in mind the substantial role this program plays in the lives of many Californians.</p> Wed, 13 Nov 2013 00:00:00 PST Measuring Poverty in California http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1406 <p><img width="91" height="82" align="right" alt="" title="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/staffphoto-bohn.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px;" />By <a href="bio.asp?i=375">Sarah Bohn</a> and <a href="bio.asp?i=315">Caroline Danielson</a>, research fellows at the Public Policy Institute of California <br /> <br /> November 6, 2013 </p><br /> <img width="91" height="82" align="right" alt="" title="" src="/content/portraits/staffphoto-danielson.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px;" />Estimates published by the Census Bureau today indicate that California is the most impoverished state in the nation. According to the <a href="http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p60-247.pdf" target="_blank">Supplemental Poverty Measure</a>, 23.8 percent of Californians do not have the resources they need to maintain a basic standard of living. <br /> <br /> Who are California’s poor? How many are children? Elderly? Southern Californians? Central Valley residents? The Census Bureau’s estimates provide limited answers to these questions. PPIC and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, together, have created a measure, the <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1070">California Poverty Measure (CPM)</a>, that offers more. <br /> <br /> Our estimates – based on a methodology similar to what the Census uses but created specifically for California – suggest that 22 percent, or about 8 million Californians, are poor. They include 2.3 million children, 800,000 older adults, and nearly 5 million working-age adults. About half of the poor in the state live in Southern California (specifically, in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties, where most Californians live to begin with). <br /> <br /> Our approach to measuring hardship is similar in spirit to what the Census does with the Supplemental Poverty measure. The CPM rate is lower for a number of reasons, but an important one is our effort to accurately measure the resources families receive from safety net programs. <br /> <br /> When we compare the CPM to official poverty rates, even bigger differences emerge in the view of California poverty. The official poverty measure—also calculated by the Census—does not rank California as the most impoverished state. Instead, it indicates that 16.5 percent of Californians are poor, which ties California with New York as the 14th most impoverished in the country. <br /> <br /> Why does the official poverty rate show that a strikingly smaller percentage of Californians are poor? The official statistic is more restricted in the scope of what it measures: It only takes into account a family’s cash income gauged against a nationwide poverty "line” based on family size. The CPM includes resources from a range of social safety net programs, in part so it can capture the end result of government support programs. (Both measures revise the poverty lines to reflect regional differences in the cost of housing.) <br /> <br /> We developed the California Poverty Measure to make a more realistic, comprehensive assessment both of family resources and of California’s typically high cost of living. We found that the state’s higher costs often outweigh the resources counted into family budgets from social programs like food stamps and school meals. For this reason, the California Poverty Measure finds more than two million more poor Californians than the official poverty measure does. What’s more, we find that many more families would be living in poverty without the assistance that such programs provide (<a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/page.asp?i=1398">our interactive graphic provides the details</a>). Wed, 6 Nov 2013 00:00:00 PST State's Water Funding Habit Must Change http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1384 <table style="width: 100%; border-collapse: collapse;"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="vertical-align: top;"> <p>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=72">Ellen Hanak</a>, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, Brian Gray, professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, and <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=354">Jay Lund</a>, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis</p> <p>This commentary was published on August 25, 2013, in the <span style="font-style: italic;">Sacramento Bee</span></p> <p> In recent weeks, work has begun in earnest in the Capitol to revamp the water bond that will go before California voters in November 2014. Everyone seems to agree that the new bond needs to be smaller than the $11 billion bond currently slated for that ballot, which polling suggests is more than the voters are likely to approve. But agreeing on what the new bond should include is proving harder. Our advice? This is an opportunity to put California on a more sustainable water funding diet – with a balanced portfolio that relies less on periodic injections of general-fund-backed debt. </p></td> <td style="padding: 0px; text-align: right; vertical-align: top;"><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=72"> <div><img width="81" height="74" border="0" alt="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/StaffPhoto-Hanak.jpg" /></div></a> <div><img border="0" align="right" alt="white spacer" src="/content/images/whitespacer_image_sm.gif" /></div> <div><img width="81" height="74" border="0" alt="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/Gray.jpg" /></div> <div><img border="0" align="right" alt="white spacer" src="/content/images/whitespacer_image_sm.gif" /></div><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=354"><img width="80" height="72" style="margin-top: 4px;" alt="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/StaffPhoto-Lund.jpg" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p> A bit of background on the current bond dilemma: From 2000 to 2006, California voters approved six general obligation bonds for water-related purposes, totaling more than $23 billion (in today's dollars). This is nearly three times as much as the sums approved in the preceding 30 years, and it translated into generous state programs to support local water, wastewater, flood protection, ecosystem restoration and parks. By the time the Legislature approved the proposed $11 billion bond in late 2009, water managers had gotten used to a steady stream of funds, and a new bond was needed to maintain it.</p> <p> Since then, however, voters – who foot the bill through repayments out of the state's general fund – seem to have lost some of their enthusiasm for bonds.</p> <p> Weak public support has already led the Legislature to postpone sending this measure to the voters twice, and the current overhaul aims to make the price tag more palatable. This inevitably means elimination of projects that matter to someone. At the same time, existing water and restoration funds are running out, and the pressure is on to pass a new bond.</p> <p> There are no magic recipes that will resolve this dilemma to everyone's satisfaction. But California can take some steps now to get on a healthier path.</p> <li><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Admit we need to go on a bond diet:</span> Even if voters approve a bond next November, the future stream of state bond funds for water projects is likely to be much smaller than what the sector has enjoyed in the recent past. Bonds have supported many valuable activities, but the easy money has also made us lazy about pursuing other funding options. The litmus test for whether an activity deserves bond funding shouldn't simply be whether it is valuable, but whether bonds reimbursed with general tax revenue are the best way to pay for it.</li><br /> <li><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Create incentives to consume less:</span> One important alternative to bonds is directly charging local residents and businesses that consume the state's water. Indeed, the lion's share of the $34 billion spent annually on water-related activities already comes from local water and sewer rates. This user fee approach is often superior to bond funding because it aligns incentives: When water users pay for new supplies through higher water bills, they are encouraged to use water more efficiently.</li><br /> <p> Increased efficiency makes more water available for environmental and recreational uses and reduces future demands for additional water projects.</p> <li><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Make healthy, balanced choices:</span> We propose focusing scarce taxpayer dollars on activities that meet one of three broad goals. The first goal is to address social equity – by, for example, making safe drinking water available in impoverished communities. The second goal is to generate broad public benefits – enhancing the ecosystem in the Delta, where most California residents have contributed to current environmental problems, is one example. The third goal is to leverage innovative management behavior that might not otherwise occur because of high startup costs. This goal provided justification for supporting integrated regional water management – which helped bring local agencies together to tackle problems jointly – in recent bonds. Now that these regional groups are up and running, we should be finding ways to make these programs self-financing – for example, with regional fees – and use bonds to support other innovations.</li><br /> <li><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Help Californians read the labels:</span> One key to making healthy spending choices is transparency. The Legislature and water managers should clearly define both the benefits of proposed bond expenditures and the sources of bond repayment, rather than hoping that Californians won't realize a bond will cost them money (in terms of new tax revenue or reduced spending on something else in the state budget).</li><br /> <li><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Establish better habits for the long-term:</span> The Legislature's job won't be done when it agrees on the contents of a new bond. Right now, some activities – such as flood and stormwater management and environmental mitigation – face difficult funding hurdles. The Legislature could improve the sustainability of the system by removing barriers to local funding, encouraging the development of regional funding systems, and improving the capacity of the water sector to pay for itself.</li> Sun, 25 Aug 2013 00:00:00 PST Realignment in California: The Story So Far http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1379 <table style="width: 100%; border-collapse: collapse;"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="letter-spacing: 0pt; word-spacing: 0pt; vertical-align: top;">By <a href="../main/bio.asp?i=531">Ryken Grattet</a>, research fellow, Public Policy Institute of California<br /> <br /> This commentary appeared on July 22, 2013, in <span style="font-style: italic;">The Crime Report</span>, a news site operated by the <a href="http://johnjayresearch.org/cmcj/">John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice</a>. </td> <td style="text-align: right; vertical-align: top;"><img width="75" height="88" src="/content/portraits/grattet_sm.gif" alt="" style="margin-left: 10px;" title="" /><br /> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table><br /> <p> October of this year marks the two-year anniversary of the introduction of California’s historic corrections reform known as public safety realignment.</p> <p> Realignment shifted significant corrections oversight and funding from the state to its counties—including authority over most non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenders. Motivated in part by rulings from the federal courts to reduce prison overcrowding, this is the biggest shift in California corrections policy in decades.</p> <p> It affects tens of thousands of prisoners and the public safety of all Californians.</p> <p> The promise of realignment was that it would relieve pressure on the state prison system and produce better results by placing authority for incarcerating and supervising offenders closer to home. Eighteen months on, both the intended and unintended consequences are coming into focus.</p> <p> Realignment has successfully shrunk the "incarceration footprint” of the state. The prison population has dropped 17 percent from 144,000 on the eve of realignment to 119,000 today. However, this decline will not be sufficient to satisfy the federal courts, falling roughly 9,600 inmates short of the reduction target.</p> <p> While the state is appealing the court order to release more inmates, corrections officials are continuing to sort through alternative methods to comply with the cap, such as early release of aged and infirm inmates, a slowdown in the return of inmates housed in private prisons out of state, and expansion of "good time” credits.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Growth in Jail Populations</span></p> <p> As expected, jail populations have grown as the prison population has plummeted, as almost all non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenders—along with parole violators—now serve time in county facilities. </p> <p> But the decline in the prison population has been much greater than the increase in county jails. For every three fewer inmates in prison there has been an increase of only one in jail, according to Magnus Lofstrom and Steven Raphael in <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1063">Impact of Realignment on County Jail Populations</a>. In addition, the amount of time that can be served in a parole revocation has been reduced to six months.</p> <p> The bottom line: more offenders have more time on the street than was the case before realignment.</p> <p> With fewer offenders behind bars, realignment critics have forecast increases in crime. Here the picture is less clear.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Increase in Property Offenses</span></p> <p><a href="http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/property-crime/property-crime">The FBI recently released data</a> that show a nationwide increase in property offenses in large cities in the first half of 2012. Some portion of these increases began before realignment took effect— and because they took place in other states as well, parsing the impact of realignment is challenging.</p> <p> However, the California Department of Justice is scheduled to release crime data for all California counties through 2012 in the next two months, which will allow researchers to more effectively tie changing crime patterns to realignment. If it turns out crime is up, and the increase can be tied to realignment, a political debate about "reforming the reform” is likely to ensue.</p> <p> Realignment was expected to achieve better results because offenders would be supervised in the community. A report recently released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation suggests recidivism patterns are largely unchanged.</p> <p> The data show that offenders released after realignment have roughly the same high rate of recidivism as those released before. Sixty percent are rearrested within one year of release. This is not the last word on recidivism, however, as the data only cover offenders released from prison and not those released from county jails who would have previously done time in prison.</p> <p> What is clear is that violations of parole are no longer a large driver of the prison population.</p> <p> Counties did not undertake realignment on equal footing. Prior to realignment, some counties relied heavily on the state prison system to handle felony offenders while others tended to use local jails and alternative sanctions.</p> <p> Some had well-developed probation and social services systems; others did not. Realignment gave counties complete authority to determine how they would deal with the new influx of offenders.</p> <p> As a result, realignment is being implemented in very different ways. Many officials throughout the state are now clamoring for a more coordinated approach, with common measures of performance and more resources to support the staff, physical plant, and services needed to achieve better results than the state did.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Making the Change Visible</span></p> <p> While the story of realignment continues to unfold, a particular challenge is simply the invisibility of what is happening in communities.</p> <p> Realignment highlights the lack of systematically collected data that would allow the state to gauge the success of the counties’ different approaches and identify practices that reduce recidivism.</p> <p> After neglecting to include funds for data collection, research and evaluation in the original realignment legislation, many policymakers in Sacramento—joined by a chorus of counties and other groups throughout the state—are beginning to push for data that can provide an assessment of realignment and guide the state in building safer communities and better systems for aiding reentering offenders. </p> Mon, 22 Jul 2013 00:00:00 PST The Digital Divide: It’s About Quality of Access http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1377 <table width="" align="" style="width: 360px; border-collapse: collapse;"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="vertical-align: top;"> <p>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=298">Dean Bonner</a>, research associate, Public Policy Institute of California<br /> <br /> This commentary was featured on Techwire.net on July 19, 2013 <br /> <br /> Originally posted on July 16, 2013</p></td> <td style="padding: 0px; text-align: right; vertical-align: top;"><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=298"> <div><img width="75" height="88" alt="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/Bonner_SM.gif" style="margin-left: 15px;" /></div></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table><br /> <p> PPIC’s June survey brings into sharp focus a digital divide in broadband connectivity between Latinos and other racial/ethnic groups. About half of Latinos (52%) have a broadband connection at home, compared to 81 percent of whites and strong majorities of blacks and Asians. The 29-point divide between Latinos and whites has narrowed by only 5 points since the 2008 survey—despite an 18-point increase among Latinos in that time.</p> <p> The digital divide is about more than being connected to the Internet—it’s about quality of access. The PPIC survey found that Latino Internet users are three times as likely as whites to "mostly use their cell phone” when they connect to the Internet. However it’s hard to imagine filling out a government form or a job application on a cellphone or helping a child with a school homework assignment on one. As the survey shows, only 1 in 10 cell phone users go online with their phones to access government resources, to apply for a job, or for educational purposes. Among desktop or laptop computer owners, far more use these devices for Internet activities.</p> <p> The survey offers evidence that Latinos are aware of the value of being connected. Among Californians who don’t use the Internet, Latinos are more than twice as likely as whites to say they would like to start using it. When asked why they don’t, Latinos are more likely than whites to cite the cost or lack of knowledge. Whites are much more likely than Latinos to cite lack of interest.</p> <p> Latinos are much more likely than whites to view the expansion of affordable broadband Internet access to everyone in the country as a priority (62% to 50%), to view broadband as a public utility (74% to 61%), or to favor a telecommunications–funded government program to increase broadband access (79% to 56%). Latinos are also more likely than whites to say that people without a broadband connection at home are at a major disadvantage when it comes to finding job opportunities (68% to 51%), getting health information (62% to 36%), or using government services (53% to 32%). </p> <p> As we move into a future where more and more people will be connected and where more of life’s activities—especially those linked to economic opportunities—will be online, the ability to use the Internet will become increasingly important. Fully closing the digital divide will not be easy, but PPIC data suggest that the will of the public is behind this venture. Teaching computer and Internet skills to kids at school—something nearly all Californians view as important—could lead to increased use among parents at home and a narrowing of the divide. Further, helping those not online get connected by teaching them computer and Internet skills or by subsidizing the cost of getting connected—for example, purchasing a computer or helping with the monthly ISP bill—could go a long way to closing the divide.</p> Fri, 19 Jul 2013 00:00:00 PST Yes, College Is Worth It http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1375 <p>By David Ezekiel, research associate, Public Policy Institute of California<br /> <br /> This commentary appeared in <span style="font-style: italic;">The Daily Californian</span> on June 17, 2013 </p> <p> When I graduated from UC Berkeley — 2010 — my annual fees were 36 percent higher than they had been in my freshman year. Since then, fees have increased further, due largely to the state’s disinvestment in public higher education. Students will get a reprieve from more increases this year, but they will still pay fees that are quadruple what they were in 1990. Rising costs led more of my fellow students and those who came after to go into debt to pay for college. And increasing student debt has ignited a debate over the question: Is college worth it? </p> <p> A new Public Policy Institute of California report that I co-authored found that less than a third of California undergraduates took out loans 10 years ago. Today, the figure is closer to half. Between 2000 and 2005, the average amount a freshman at a California four-year public school took out rose $100 — from $3,800 to $3,900. In the next five years, that average rose by $1,400 to $5,300. Our report found that student debt is lower in California than in the rest of the nation, but it has still increased dramatically. </p> <p> Yet the benefits of a college degree are still substantial. California college graduates are more likely to be employed than those who have only a high school diploma, and the gap between the two groups had grown wider since the start of the recession. College graduates earn significantly more money. A woman with a bachelor’s degree working in California in 2011 made 57.3 percent more than a woman with only a high school diploma, even after accounting for differences in work experience and other individual characteristics. For men, the difference in wage was 56.5 percent. </p> <p> With the cost of college increasing, a lot of us have worried about whether our degrees would be useful to employers. Granted, some majors do result in higher wages than others. Yet even college graduates in the least lucrative majors have median wages well above high school graduates who do not go to college. College graduates at the low end of the wage range earn a median annual wage of $57,000, compared to just $39,000 for workers with only a high school diploma. It’s important to note that students who drop out of college don’t fare nearly as well in the labor market. They, along with students who borrow excessive amounts — our benchmark was $40,000 — are at the highest risk of loan default. </p> <p> Our report concluded that for students at Cal and California’s other public colleges, a college degree is worth the cost. If taking out a loan allows you to go to a California public college and get a degree, taking on debt is probably a smart economic choice. </p> <p> And, as we highlighted in our report, the benefits of a college education extend beyond you and your fellow students. Historically, high-quality and affordable education has been instrumental in the state’s prosperity. An educated population produces higher tax revenues, relies less on public services and makes for a competitive workforce. PPIC research shows that by 2025, California will be one million college graduates short of the number needed to fill workforce demand. In other words, California’s future economy and the well-being of all of its residents depends on students attending and graduating from college in larger numbers. </p> <p> For this reason, our report recommends that the state find ways to make college affordable for more Californians. Two programs that have helped mitigate the costs at the University of California are the Cal Grant and the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan. Without them, our figures would be even more troubling. Another way is to improve pathways from community colleges to UC and other four-year institutions. Finding ways to help families save for college should be another state priority. Some states, for example, have created college savings programs that guarantee full tuition at public universities. Finally, to keep costs down, state policymakers and higher education administration need to ensure adequate funding of higher education institutions, because college is worth it — for future Californians as well as today’s students.</p> Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 PST Real Workplace Enforcement, and Realistic Flows of Authorized Immigrants http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1358 <p> <table style="WIDTH: 100%; BORDER-COLLAPSE: collapse"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="VERTICAL-ALIGN: top"> <div>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=388">Magnus Lofstrom</a>, research fellow, Public Policy Institute of California <br /> <br /> This commentary was published April 30, 2013, on Zócalo Public Square in response to the question, "How can immigration reform best avoid attracting another wave of undocumented immigrants to Los Angeles?” To read the full discussion, visit <a href="http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2013/04/30/fixing-immigration-again/ideas/up-for-discussion/">Fixing Immigration, Again</a> at Zócalo Public Square.</div></td> <td style="VERTICAL-ALIGN: text-top"><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=6388"><img border="0" alt="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/Lofstrom_SM.gif" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table></p> <p> California and Los Angeles undoubtedly have much at stake in the efforts to reform our flawed immigration system. One of the most important considerations is how we handle unauthorized immigration. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which offered amnesty to undocumented workers at the time, addressed but did not solve this issue—as the presence today of 2.6 million unauthorized immigrants in California (nearly one million residing in Los Angeles alone) makes clear. What lessons can we learn from IRCA and what are the key reforms necessary to manage unauthorized immigration?</p> <p> One thing IRCA got right was granting a pathway to legal status for the unauthorized immigrant population of the time. Policymakers designing the reform also correctly recognized that jobs are the primary draw for most unauthorized immigrants, and hence instituted employer sanctions for hiring unauthorized immigrant workers. However, the sanctions were barely enforced and the lure of jobs and higher wages continued to attract numerous immigrants. At the same time, increased border enforcement made crossing the border more dangerous and more expensive. Those who crossed successfully ended up staying in the U.S. longer because of the increased difficulty and expense of crossing—which led to even greater increases in the unauthorized resident population.</p> <p> So here’s what we learned: Controlling our border is a priority but to successfully manage future immigrant flows, a real fix to the system requires an accurate and effective employment verification system. This could mean mandating the use of the federal government’s E-Verify program for all new hires, as well as ensuring actual enforcement of sanctions for employers. At the same time, to prevent economic activity from simply shifting to the underground economy, we need to take two critical steps. First, we should establish a pathway to legal status for the current unauthorized population. Second, we need to implement flexible temporary worker visa programs that can adjust to economic conditions, allowing both low- and high-skilled workers to fill vacant jobs and meet the labor demands of a growing economy.</p> Tue, 30 Apr 2013 00:00:00 PST Parents Weigh School Funding—and Goals http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1359 <table width="" align="" style="width: 360px; border-collapse: collapse;"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="vertical-align: top;"> <p>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=299">Sonja Petek</a>, research associate, Public Policy Institute of California<br /> <br /> April 29, 2013 </p></td> <td style="padding: 0px; text-align: right; vertical-align: top;"><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=299"> <div><img width="75" height="88" style="margin-left: 15px;" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/Petek_SM.gif" alt="" /></div></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table><br /> <p>Governor Brown has proposed changing the way the state’s K–12 public schools are funded by directing additional resources to districts that have more low-income and English Learner (EL) students. PPIC’s April Statewide Survey reveals some important differences among public school parents on this concept, on aspirations for their children’s future, and on priorities for K–12 education.</p> <p> How do public school parents view Brown’s proposal? PPIC’s April survey found much higher support among Latino, lower-income, and less educated public school parents. These groups are also much more likely to believe that targeted funding would have a significant impact on lower-income and EL students. For instance, Latino public school parents are four times as likely as white public school parents (63% to 15%) to say that the academic achievement of these students would improve "a lot” if they received extra funding.</p> <p> Looking into the future, the vast majority of public school parents express high hopes: 39 percent would like their youngest child to eventually earn a four-year college degree, and another 41 percent hope that their child earns a graduate degree after college. But beneath this seemingly universal desire for higher education lie key differences. White parents are three times as likely as Latino parents to hope that their child obtains a graduate degree (59% to 21%). Similarly, parents with at least some college education themselves are more than twice as likely as those with only a high school education or less to want their child to earn a graduate degree (61% to 23%). The share hoping for advanced degrees increases sharply as income levels rise.</p> <p> Given these findings, it is not surprising that strong majorities of public school parents across groups consider college preparation "very important” to the K–12 curriculum. However, when asked to choose the most important goal of the K–12 system from a list of five options, key differences emerged. A solid majority of Latino parents (60%) select college preparation—but just 25 percent of white parents do so. In fact, white parents are as likely to name "teaching students life skills” (25%) as the most important goal. College preparation is considered the top priority for majorities of both those with incomes under $40,000 (51%) and those with only a high school education or less (56%); among more affluent and more educated parents, fewer made it their top choice. Similarly, immigrant parents and those who took the survey in Spanish are far more likely than U.S.-born parents and those who took the survey in English to prioritize college preparation.</p> <p> The data tell an important story: those who have historically had less access to the higher education system want to get their children’s feet in the door and are leaning on the state’s K–12 public school system to facilitate this effort. White public school parents and those with greater levels of income and education express the highest hopes for their children—and yet they are less likely to view K–12 schools as critical to preparing their child for college. These parents are more likely than Latino, lower-income, and less educated parents to be "very confident” that they have the necessary resources and information to help their child reach their goals—and they appear to feel less dependent on the K–12 system to fulfill that role.</p> <p> One of the central goals of directing extra funding to students with the greatest need is to close the persistent achievement gap that exists between the state’s disadvantaged students and others. The parents of disadvantaged students attach personal weight to this issue—the state’s public school system is the ticket to their child’s future.</p> Mon, 29 Apr 2013 00:00:00 PST