Inequities Holding Back Los Angeles-Area Economy, Study Finds

While Los Angeles County is the ninth most diverse among the hundred and fifty largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., it is the seventh most unequal, a report from PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) finds.

Funded by the Weingart Foundation, the 2017 Equity Profile of the Los Angeles Region (110 pages, PDF, or summary, 8 pages, PDF) found that even as the county's population has increased by more than a million since 1990, inequities in income, wealth, health, and opportunity have reached historic levels, threatening the region's long-term economic prosperity. Following the economic downturn of the early 1990s, the number of poor and working poor people in the country remained above the national average, with nearly a quarter of African Americans (24.5 percent) and Latinos (23.7 percent) living below the poverty line. At the same time, the income gap between the highest- and lowest-paid workers has grown and middle-wage jobs have been disappearing.

The first in a series of reports produced by the Southern California Regional Equity Atlas project, the report argues that disparities in educational attainment among communities of color must be addressed if Los Angeles County is to attract and retain the kind of skilled workforce it needs to be economically competitive. The study also found that African Americans currently face higher rates of joblessness at all education levels, and that even among college graduates working full-time, Latinos earn $9 an hour less than their white counterparts, while African Americans and Asian Americans earn $6 an hour less. According to the study, eliminating racial disparities in income would have boosted the region's GDP in 2014 by an estimated $380 billion, or 58 percent.

"We call this the 'racial equity dividend,'" said PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell. "Full inclusion benefits all Angelenos."

"Across the region, people are struggling daily for the things so many of us take for granted — safe streets, good jobs, access to health care, affordable housing, and a quality education for our families," said Weingart Foundation CEO Fred Ali. "Over the past several decades, long-standing inequities in our communities have reached unprecedented levels. Addressing these disparities is both a moral and economic imperative for us all."

"2017 Equity Profile of the Los Angeles Region" Highlights Dramatic Inequities." Weingart Foundation Press Release 03/02/2017. "An Equity Profile of the Los Angeles Region." PolicyLink and USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity Report 03/02/2017.