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Blog Post · December 14, 2023

2023 Year in Review

photo - California Poppy Bloom on Grass Mountain Trail, Santa Barbara County

Just under a year ago, I became president and CEO of PPIC. I had served for 32 years as a jurist before that—the last 12 as Chief Justice of California and leader of the judiciary. I chose PPIC because of its nonpartisan mission and approach; in our highly polarized times, California needs an organization that relies on data to improve the lives of Californians around the state.

We are constantly reminded of the tremendous divides we face today—political, social, economic. I believe that an objective, fact-based, nonideological approach—PPIC’s approach—has the most potential for bringing people together. This belief has been strongly reinforced during my time at PPIC.

We provide high-quality, fact-based information on some of the most pressing challenges facing our state. We provide these resources, at no cost and in a variety of accessible ways, to California lawmakers and the public in service of improving the lives of all Californians.

In the past year, our work has contributed key areas of the policy conversation, including

Population decline. For the first time in its history, California is losing population. And for the first time, wealthier and more highly educated Californians are a part of the exodus—a trend PPIC was the first to identify. Driven in part by California’s housing crisis and high cost of living, this trend has profound implications for the future of our state.

Economic uncertainty. After a year of fluctuations in inflation, unemployment, and the stock market, the economy is still top of mind for Californians today. Increasing poverty—especially among children—is a worrisome trend, as our California Poverty Measure has shown. Our multiyear focus on economic wellbeing—for workers, businesses, and families—is culminating in a new policy center to be launched early next year.

Weather whiplash. Dramatic weather extremes defined California in 2023. Nowhere were these extremes more evident than in the San Joaquin Valley, which after years of drought saw massive flooding and the reappearance of ancestral Lake Tulare. Several of our projects this year focused on the valley, examining the major transformations needed to sustain the agricultural, economic, and environmental vitality of this key region of the state.

Educational recovery. The pandemic still scars the state’s education landscape, from lower test scores to declining enrollment. One bright spot: billions of dollars in state and federal funding. Our researchers are following the money, assessing the impact of these investments. They have also examined the college pipeline, focusing on programs like dual enrollment in high school and community college and transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions.

Crime concerns. Crime is on the rise across the state—and our experts are tracking the trends, including increases in retail theft and robbery and gun-related incidents, as well as violent crime rates that diverge from the nation’s. One cause for hope: younger Californians are committing violent crimes at a lower rate than previous generations, according to our recent report.

In addition to producing excellent research, PPIC hosts compelling events and briefings. This year I have had the pleasure of moderating the PPIC Speaker Series on California’s Future. This series features thoughtful conversations with leaders from across the political and geographic spectrum who respond critically, constructively, and collaboratively to the state’s many challenges.

I have great ambitions for PPIC. More than ever, our leaders at the local, state, and national levels need a trusted, impartial source of information that helps them make well-informed decisions for California, its resources, and its people. And that’s what PPIC provides: independent, nonpartisan, and actionable research.

As we head into a consequential and contentious election year in 2024, my hope is that PPIC will be a source of facts and data that create common ground, not fault lines.


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