Income inequality has been a persistent feature of California’s economy for decades. Latino and Black families earn $0.60 or less for every $1 that white families earn, according to a PPIC analysis of US Census data. Income gaps are smaller for other racial/ethnic groups: Asian families earn $0.96 for every $1 that white families earn, while Pacific Islanders and others earn $0.86. In a recent PPIC survey, a strong majority of Californians say racial and ethnic discrimination contributes a great deal (28%) or a fair amount (40%) to economic inequality, while three in ten say it contributes not too much (22%) or not at all (8%). Many also support policies that could help ease families’ economic burdens.
Though most Californians say racial bias plays a role in economic inequality, there is a large partisan divide on this issue. Nearly all Democrats say racial discrimination contributes a great deal (41%) or a fair amount (44%), while a solid majority of Republicans say it contributes not too much (46%) or not at all (19%). Independents lean more toward Democrats in their views.
White Californians (63%) are the least likely among racial/ethnic groups to think racial discrimination contributes at least a fair amount to economic inequality, compared to about eight in ten African Americans and Asian Americans. Notably, 62% of African Americans say racial discrimination contributes a lot, a share that is nearly double or more than any other racial/ethnic group.
The Newsom administration has aimed to tackle economic inequality in several ways, including expanding the state’s earned income and young child tax credits and broadening eligibility for several programs, such as CalFresh, during the pandemic. Last year, Governor Newsom signed an executive order directing state agencies to measure, track, and improve equity as part of their mission and policies. To help coordinate these efforts, he appointed leaders to the state’s first Racial Equity Commission earlier this year.
When asked about potential state policies to ease Californians’ financial burdens—such as further expanding the earned income tax credit, increasing spending on job training, and increasing spending on child care—about half or more of all Californians are in favor. However, those who believe that racial discrimination contributes to economic inequality have higher levels of support than those who say there is not much of a link between racial bias and inequality. Californians who say racial discrimination contributes a great deal or a fair amount to economic inequality are at least 26 percentage points more likely to support these policies.
The gap is largest on the issue of a government-provided universal basic income of $1,000. Nearly half (46%) of all Californians support this policy. However, close to six in ten of those who believe racial bias is a factor in economic inequality do so, compared to only two in ten of those who believe racial bias is not much of a factor in economic inequality.
In our June PPIC survey, seven in ten Californians said the state government should be doing more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor in California. Continue to follow the PPIC Statewide Survey as we track Californians’ view on economic inequality and how the state government is tackling this important issue.