Latinos comprise the largest ethnic group in the largest state of the union. Today, nearly 40 percent of all California residents are of Latino origin – a number that will only grow over the coming decades. The future of California and the future of its Latino population are one in the same. But when we look at some of the economic and political trends among California’s 14 million Latino residents, there are troubling signs for our community, and for our state’s future.
Latinos make up a plurality of California’s population.Yet studies show there is a large disparity between the economic well-being of California Latinos and that of the overall state population. Latinos in the state are underrepresented among upper-income groups and are overrepresented in lower-income groups—including those living in poverty.
Given Latinos’ growing demographic presence in the state—38.5% of the state’s population—a strong Latino middle class is essential to the future economic vitality of the state as a whole. While many studies have examined the often poor economic outcomes faced by a large segment of California Latinos, far less attention has been devoted to the economic well-being of the state’s Latino middle class. The expansion of the Latino middle class is crucial to ensuring the greater well-being of California’s Latino community, as well as that of the California economy.
To support the expansion of the Latino middle class, it is important to first understand the economic barriers and opportunities that Latinos currently face.
• Middle-income Latinos are most likely to be U.S.-born males under the age of 45 who are college-educated and own a home.
• In California, the average middle-income adult earns 35.3% more than the average middle-income adult Latino.
• Fewer Latinas than Latinos attain middle-class incomes: 52.2% of middle-income Latinos are men, while just 47.8% are women.
• The San Joaquin Valley and the North State regions have the lowest share of middle-income Latinos (31% and 27.3%, respectively), compared to other regions in the state.