PPIC Logo Independent, objective, nonpartisan research
Blog Post · November 16, 2023

Video: Californians and Their Economic Well-Being

photo - Mother and Daughters at Check Out Counter

PPIC’s latest survey examines Californians’ perceptions of their financial well-being. In addition to asking about economic insecurity and job satisfaction, the survey gauges support for labor unions and polices that aim to promote economic well-being. At a virtual event last week, PPIC researchers Dean Bonner and Deja Thomas discussed key findings and takeaways.

Bonner noted that the well-being survey—now in its fourth year—is special because it includes an oversample of Californians with incomes under $40,000: “This provides us the ability to look at this subgroup on its own in a way that we would not be able to do otherwise,” he said.

The survey finds that nearly two out of three Californians expect bad economic times in the next 12 months. “This is a broad perception,” said Bonner, “except among two groups—Democrats and African Americans; both have slim majorities expecting good times.”

A record-high 71% of Californians think today’s children will be financially worse off than their parents. This share has risen 8 points since 2021, and is much higher than it was five years ago, when only 50% held this view.

Why do a growing share of Californians feel pessimistic about the future? “The share has been rising over time, ever since PPIC first asked this question in December 2014,” said Thomas. She tied this rising pessimism to a number of other survey findings. For example, about three in ten Californians report that they or someone in their household have had to cut back on food or that they had to put off a doctor visit, and another two in ten have had difficulty making rent or mortgage payments.

“On top of that,” Thomas added, “about two in ten or more Californians are worried about the cost of housing, the cost of health care, paying their bills, and whether they’ll be able to save for retirement.” Given the persistence of these worries over the past few years, she said, “I think a lot of this might be piling up.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these difficulties are most prevalent among lower-income Californians: those earning under $40,000 annually are most likely to have experienced economic insecurity over the past year and are especially likely to worry about covering their costs and saving money.

While pessimism about the broader economic outlook is widespread, most Californians have a more positive view of their personal finances. Majorities across parties, regions, and demographic groups report being at least somewhat satisfied with their household’s financial situation, and a majority say their finances are about the same as they were a year ago. However, only 16% say they are better off financially, while three in ten say they are worse off.

There is solid support for labor unions and for policies designed to promote economic well-being. Seven in ten Californians—including majorities across parties—approve of labor unions, and 85% think it’s important for workers to organize so that employers don’t take advantage of them. Californians are especially supportive of increasing funding for job training, and a strong majority favor boosting childcare funding for lower-income working parents. The survey asked about rent control and a minimum wage increase, which are likely to appear on the 2024 ballot. “We found solid majority support—and a wide partisan divide—on both of these issues,” said Bonner.


Economy Health & Safety Net Housing jobs labor unions minimum wage personal finances Political Landscape Population Poverty & Inequality rent control Statewide Survey workers