Comparing Regional Economies: There’s an app for that

150 150 Mark Orcutt

(photo credit: Bill Lapp) In the 12th Congrassional District, 67 percent of the population is renting. 

What do Congressional Districts 12 and 21 have in common? Well, besides digits, not much. However, they do say a lot about the diversity of California’s economy.

Located in the heart of the agriculturally rich Central Valley, California’s 21st Congressional District is struggling to grow jobs (16.8 percent unemployment) and has a median household income of $37,228. Yet, with a deflated median home value of $134,600, owning a home is a reality for more than half of the population.

Meanwhile, located 200 miles to the north sits the city of San Francisco and the 12th Congressional District. This district boasts a healthy job market (7 percent unemployment). But can you afford to live where you work? With a median household income of $69,046 and a daunting median home value of $730,200, living in this neck of woods means homeownership is a mere pipe dream. In fact, 67 percent of the population is stuck with renting.

The deities of data and door knocking, also known as the U.S. Census Bureau, unveiled a new interactive web app on Thursday that makes it easier than ever to discover the unique challenges facing California’s 53 Congressional districts. To expand the impact of their latest tool, the app can be seamlessly embedded into any website, data quickly downloaded, and facts shared at the click of a button.

California’s regional diversity is certainly not news to us.

Over the past two years, in partnership with the California Stewardship Network, California Forward has been working on refining a regionally focused strategy through the California Economic Summit. In preparation for the second annual meeting, the partnership organized 16 regional forums to collect input straight from 1,700 regional leaders.

This input is currently being harnessed and refined by action teams in preparation for this year’s Economic Summit in Los Angeles on November 7-8. In fact, one of the regional policy initiatives set to be tackled at the Summit is housing.

“Housing is a cross-cutting issue to every initiative before the California Economic Summit stakeholder community,” said Susan Lovenburg, who coordinates the Summit for California Forward. “As a major driver of any economic recovery, housing is a great example of the diverse challenges that face California’s regions. And a lack of housing in the right places can contribute to traffic gridlock, poor air quality, unnecessary depletion of green fields, and declines in health and education.”

In addition, the California Forward Action Fund has been hard at work with Assembly Speaker Pérez’s staff to incorporate a regional focus into the statewide economic development plan ensconced in AB 53.

Apps like the Census Bureau’s remind us that the economic challenges facing California’s regions are not one-size-fits-all and neither are the solutions. Now, if there was only an app somewhere on the California Forward website for comparing city and county data


Mark Orcutt

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