Ten years ago this weekend, the world watched as Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and laid bare the inequities that are deeply ingrained in American society. Perhaps no single event has ever highlighted the intersection between race, poverty, climate, and health as clearly as the devastation in New Orleans.
Katrina put a spotlight on an uncomfortable truth: that millions of people in this country live in abject poverty and that communities of color are far more likely to experience the consequences of the country’s entrenched inequality. In 2005, nearly 40 million Americans (roughly 1 in every 7) lived in poverty. A decade later, there has been hardly any change in the nation’s poverty rate. In Louisiana, 34% of Blacks live in poverty compared to 10% of Whites. High poverty rates have made housing less affordable, and as a result, low-income populations and communities of color often live in areas of concentrated poverty in substandard housing with the constant threat of eviction. Even though Katrina took place nearly 2,000 miles away from California, the underlying social factors that exacerbated the destruction experienced by low-income communities of color – particularly African Americans – are evident here and throughout the country.
As the economy in the Bay Area continues to grow, few places are reaping the benefits as much as Santa Clara County. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in the county is $91,702, about $30,000 more than the statewide median. In addition, the median value of owner-occupied housing units in Santa Clara County is $645,600, nearly twice the state median of $366,400.
These numbers, coupled with the fact that the county’s population is roughly two-thirds communities of color, would make it seem like a great land of opportunity for all residents. But there are still stark disparities in the county along racial and ethnic lines.
Today’s Friday Facts table shows one of the more striking disparities in Santa Clara County: the juvenile felony arrest rate. As you can see, African American juveniles in the county are more than eight times as likely to be arrested for a felony than their White counterparts (38.0 per 1,000 compared to 4.7). The Latino juvenile felony arrest rate (15.4 per 1,000) is more than three times that of Whites.
For today’s Friday Facts, we’re taking a look at a particularly vulnerable population in a location best known as the seat of power for the state. As you can see from the table on our website, there are high rates of poverty among children in Sacramento County. In particular, children in communities of color experience high rates of poverty. For example, African American children (42.2%) are nearly three times as likely to live in poverty as their White counterparts (14.8%). Latino children (34.8%) and Asian children (22.2%) are also more likely to live in poverty than White children.
For today’s edition of Friday Facts, we’re going to focus on the East Bay and in particular Alameda County, of which the City of Oakland represents a sizable portion. On our site, we have a chart examining, by race and ethnicity, the percentage of families of four in Alameda County that make a living wage. In this data set, the California Department of Public Health determines a living wage to be at least $22.64 an hour and is defined as “the hourly wage rate or annual income that a sole provider working full time (2080 hours/yr) must earn to provide his/her family a minimum standard of living, covering costs of food, child care, health insurance, housing, transportation, and other necessities.”
Even a cursory glance at the numbers would show striking disparities along racial and ethnic lines, with all communities of color seeing higher rates of families earning below a living wage than Whites. Latino families, for example, are five times as likely to earn less than a living wage than are Whites.