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.