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Blog Post · December 2, 2021

California’s Mood Darkens on the Economy

photo - People Crossing Street in Downtown San Francisco

After the initial shock of the coronavirus pandemic passed, Californians’ outlook on the economy took a hit. Before the pandemic, about half of adults expected good economic times in the months ahead, as shown in our January 2020 Statewide Survey. By the time we conducted our April 2020 survey, eight in ten Californians said they expected bad times.

Pessimism remained high throughout 2020; but by early 2021, Californians were more optimistic. As the end of the year approaches, opinions have shifted yet again, with Californians giving mixed reviews of the economy. Even before widespread news of the omicron variant and related economic fluctuations, our November survey revealed that just over half of adults are now expecting bad economic times.

In November, majorities across income groups were pessimistic about the economy. However, opinions diverged somewhat among racial/ethnic groups: notably, majorities of Latinos (57%) and African Americans (54%) were more optimistic, saying good times were ahead, compared to about four in ten Asian Americans (43%) and whites (39%).

Views also varied slightly by locale: half of residents in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area expected good times, while majorities in the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, and Orange/San Diego expected bad times.

Californians’ unease with economic prospects extends into the future, with about half saying that during the next five years they expect mostly periods of widespread unemployment or depression. Moreover, adults across age, region, income, and other subgroups express a similar attitude about their expectations for the economy over the coming year.

Looking further into the future, more than six in ten Californians say that children growing up in California today will be worse off than their parents, a view widely held by majorities across regions. Across nearly all demographic groups, most adults say children will be worse off—the lone exception is Latinos, who are divided on this question. Notably, parents of children 18 and under (48% better off, 51% worse off) are much more optimistic than adults without young children (31% better off, 69% worse off) when it comes to future prospects for today’s children.

Now as Californians prepare for the holiday season and look to move beyond the pandemic, a new variant of COVID-19 threatens to upend the sparse optimism gained over the past year. And although little is known about omicron, uncertainty around the variant has already shaken global markets. Stay tuned to the PPIC Statewide Survey as we continue to track Californians’ views of the economy.


coronavirus COVID-19 Economic Trends Economy Political Landscape Statewide Survey