Mind the Gaps: Closing Income and Educational Disparities in California

Nov 05, 2013
Publisher: Milken Institute

California is a state of tremendous diversity. When examining regional variation within the United States, it is essential to not only focus on readily apparent population and demographic characteristics, but also income, industry mix, and educational attainment. This study illustrates the problems that arise due to California's regional variations in wealth and standard of living. As much as politics and history combine with such variations to create prosperity gaps among states, within California the differences are even greater.

"Mind the Gaps" looks at the varying levels of income per capita in counties, supporting elements such as the rates of unemployment, poverty, and educational attainment, as well as the industry mix among private non-farm, non-manufacturing enterprises, government, agriculture and manufacturing. A key purpose of the report is to illustrate the effects of policies aimed at improving the worst performing governmental units, which may differ depending on whether one focuses narrowly or broadly.

The authors compare several measures of performance across states, and then do the same for all the counties in California. Those measures are income per capita, the unemployment rate, the poverty rate, and educational attainment, contrasting the percentage of people who earned a high school degree or higher with those with a college degree or higher. The industry mix is considered to determine how the business landscape is associated with performance measures at the county level.