California Dream Index launches at 2020 California Economic Summit

1024 576 Jania Palacios

The California Dream has slipped away for too many for far too long. While California’s post great-recession recovery was strong, its impact was not even. Boasting the fifth largest economy in the world, many communities and people of color were left behind in the recovery only to be further hit by the 2020 trifecta of a global pandemic, economic recession, and devastating wildfires spurred by rapid climate change.

For more than three years, California Forward (CA FWD) and its many partners have worked on a ground-breaking project to bring accountability and measurement to the progress the state is making in providing opportunity for all. CA FWD developed the California Dream Index in order to help more residents and families claim their California Dream and to help public and private decision-makers develop data-informed policy decisions that also keep us accountable for progress.

Launched at the 2020 California Economic Summit today, the Index measures 10 key indicators of economic mobility, social security and inclusion over time. The 10 indicators measure:

  • Air Quality
  • Short Commutes
  • Broadband Access
  • Early Childhood Education
  • College & CTE Certifications
  • Income Above Cost of Living
  • Affordable Rent
  • Home Ownership
  • Prosperous Neighborhoods
  • Clean Drinking Water

“Today is the culmination of years of work and partnership,” said Micah Weinberg, CEO of CA FWD. “While we know there is no magic index, the California Dream Index is built with equity in mind and allows us to track progress towards building the California we need.”

With the ability to analyze data by race and ethnicity, geography, income, and educational attainment, the Index allows for “apples to apples” comparisons by county and region to better assess progress as well as view the interconnectivity of the indicators throughout the state.

Debbie Chang, president and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation introduced the Index during the Summit.

“The indicators are really terrific,” said Chang. “It’s so helpful to be able to cut the data by region, race, ethnicity, and more. Learning from each other is so key for progress.”

The index consists of three parts: The index as a tool, a portal linking to granular region and issue-specific indices, and a robust community of practice that spurs policy and collective action across the state.

Providing a normalized overall score, we can see that the overall California Dream Index rose or stayed flat in all of California’s regions from 2010 to 2018. The Bay Area, Ventura and Sierra Nevada Counties near Lake Tahoe saw the greatest gains during those years.

The Index also shines a light on racial disparities. In 2010, California Latinos had 19% lower broadband adoption than the state as a whole. Since then, there has been marked progress. In 2018, Latinos had 80% broadband adoption compared to 84% for the state as a whole.

We can also see ongoing areas in need of improvement. Despite a decade of economic growth, the percent of Californians that have affordable rent has stagnated, with 43% of renters paying less than 30% of their income on rent in 2018.

Join us by exploring the Index, providing feedback, and participating in the community of practice that will enable us to build the California we need and deserve.


Jania Palacios

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