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Blog Post · January 18, 2024

PPIC Turns 30

This blog post is the first in a series celebrating PPIC’s 30th anniversary.

photo - California field of flowers at sunset

Thirty years ago, California was grappling with a wide range of challenges: fiscal and economic uncertainty, contentious immigration debates, strife over police-community relations, and deep concerns over public education.

These issues affected every Californian—and the need for new tools to address them was urgent. Three visionary leaders recognized that government did not have resources to perform the research and analysis necessary to help policymakers make informed, evidence-based decisions. They founded—and funded—the Public Policy Institute of California to serve this purpose. Thirty years later, the necessity of nonpartisan, fact-based information has never been greater.

California has changed dramatically since the mid 90s—demographically, economically, and politically. PPIC has also grown with the times. As the consequences of climate change became ever more pronounced—more volatility, disruption, and inevitable long-term change—we created the PPIC Water Policy Center, now a highly trusted source of information on one of the state’s key resources.

After our research demonstrated that California would not be able to meet the increasing demand for highly skilled, highly educated workers, we founded the PPIC Higher Education Center, whose research has spurred critical reforms and important goal-setting across California’s higher education systems.

PPIC has also been at the forefront of providing better, more accurate data on major policy issues. For example, our researchers helped to develop the California Poverty Measure, which includes critical factors such as housing costs and safety net benefits. Updated yearly, this tool provides an important benchmark for policymakers and other stakeholders on our residents’ well-being across the state.

In addition, the PPIC Statewide Survey—inaugurated in 1998—has been an essential, trusted source of information on a range of key topics throughout the years, not only tracking elections and approval ratings but also offering Californians’ views on everything from the environment to education to public safety.

What’s next for PPIC? Most immediately—on February 1—we will be launching the PPIC Economic Policy Center to help California develop meaningful, lasting, forward-looking economic policies in the face of wide-ranging technological, demographic, and climate-related change.

Another central project: promoting civic education. As this year’s already-tumultuous election events remind us, an informed voting population is critical to effective governance. We will be partnering with California schools to elevate awareness and encourage engagement with our next generation of voters and leaders.

And speaking of this year’s elections, we will be at the forefront of providing views and opinions from all Californians on a range of pressing issues—from perceptions of candidates to preferences on policies that voters will be making at the ballot box in November.

In our Speaker Series on California’s Future—our major public event series, free of charge to attend in person or online—we will be talking with California leaders about the issues state residents care about most.

We can’t say this enough: we don’t do this work alone. PPIC relies on an extensive network of advisors and other engaged Californians to ensure our relevance, expand our reach, and deepen our impact. We are grateful for their support and look forward to productive partnerships in the years ahead.

PPIC’s first 30 years have been exciting, rewarding, and challenging. Over the next twelve months our experts will be exploring California’s progress over the last three decades across a number of dimensions. We invite you to join us by keeping up to date with our activities and offering your support.


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