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Press Release · February 22, 2001

Race And Ethnicity Remain Key Predictors Of Well-Being In California

Comprehensive Analysis Tracks Trends for Whites, Hispanics, African Americans, Asians

SAN FRANCISCO, California, February 22, 2001 – Life has improved for most racial and ethnic groups in California over the past 30 years, but not for all or on all dimensions. Despite real progress in social, political, and economic equity, deep disparities among groups persist – and in some cases have grown – according to a detailed and wide-ranging analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). On the whole, whites and Asians are healthier, more educated, economically better off, and less likely to be victims of violent crime than are Hispanics and African Americans.

A Portrait of Race and Ethnicity in California: An Assessment of Social and Economic Well-Being is the first comprehensive, user-friendly sourcebook of information identifying and comparing how different racial and ethnic groups are faring in California. The book, edited by PPIC research fellow Belinda Reyes, brings together the most recently available data from a variety of sources and will be updated as significant new data is released, including data from the 2000 Census (census microdata will be available in 2003). Wherever possible, the book presents trends on major Asian and Hispanic subgroups and U.S.-born and foreign-born Asians and Hispanics. There are often wide variations within groups: Unlike Asians generally, Southeast Asians are far more disadvantaged than other racial and ethnic groups.


  • African Americans have substantially lower life expectancies than any other racial or ethnic group
    (Demography, page 19).

  • Between 1970 and 1998, the Hispanic population doubled in every California county except Sierra (Geographic Distribution, page 35).

  • Hispanics – both immigrant and U.S.-born – have lower high school and college completion rates than Asians, whites, or African Americans (Educational Outcomes, pages 59 and 62).

  • Fewer than 50 percent of Hispanic adults in the state have health insurance, while over 70 percent of whites are insured (Health Outcomes, page 74).

  • The median earnings of white men are higher than those of U.S. born Hispanic, Asian, or African American men with similar education levels (Labor Market Outcomes, page 110).

  • The poverty rate rose from 29 percent in 1970 to 40 percent in 1997 for Hispanic children and from 23 percent to 34 percent for African American children (Economic Outcomes, page 143).

  • African-Americans represent 7 percent of California’s population, 24 percent of its prison population, and 44 percent of those sentenced for a third strike under the “Three Strikes” law (Crime and Criminal Justice, page 158).

  • Of eligible voters in California, only 32 percent of Asians and 26 percent of Hispanics voted in 1996, compared to 68 percent of whites and 64 percent of African Americans (Political Behavior, page 171).

PPIC is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to objective, nonpartisan research on economic, social, and political issues that affect the lives of Californians. The Institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. David W. Lyon is President and CEO of the Institute.