Advertisement
Share

Rich-Poor Gulf Widens in State : Census: Data shows median income grew in 1980s. It also shows poverty, especially among children, rose.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prosperity and poverty grew side by side in California during the 1980s, a decade in which the gap between wealth and want can be measured by rising incomes, especially among the state’s richest residents, and by the growing number of children living below the poverty line.

New census data released today shows that the state’s median household income grew by 17% during the last decade, placing it at $35,798, or 17% higher than the nation’s median household income. The figure grew by nearly 19% in Los Angeles County, with high-end communities such as Hidden Hills and Rolling Hills reporting median incomes of $150,000. Around the state, the number of households making $75,000 or more annually has grown by 800%.

The census information comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s long form, distributed to one out of every six people and containing questions about residents’ economic, social, educational and housing status.

Across California, the proportion of people living in poverty rose by just over 1% to 12.5%, remaining slightly lower than the nationwide poverty rate of 12.8%. But the figure cloaks a far more dramatic surge in poverty among certain population groups.

Advertisement

Statewide, the number of related children under 18 living below the poverty line, which is $12,674 annually for a family of four, grew by 41%. That adds up to 1.3 million children living in poverty in the state. The number of poor families increased by 28% and poor families with female heads of household by 32%. The number of poor elderly people in California increased by 21% to over 228,000. During the decade, the state’s population, now 29,760,021, grew by 26%.

The new census data, collected before the recession took hold, may not adequately reflect the degree of economic hardship being experienced by much of the state’s population. But it does show a widening divide between the richest and poorest residents in a state with a proud history of economic opportunity.

Some of the sharpest differences were evident in South Los Angeles--the focal point of the recent rioting--where economic gains were minuscule at best and far behind the rest of the county.

Here, half of those 16 and older were unemployed as of 1990 and were not looking for a job. Countywide, the figure was 37%. Per capita income for the area was a mere $7,023, compared with $16,149 countywide. Over the past decade, it had grown only 6.5% in South Los Angeles, compared with 16% for the county.

Since median incomes rose, at least a little, at all levels of society, experts taking their first look at the new census data said they suspect that much of the rise in poverty is a result of the huge influx of immigrants, more than 3.2 million, many of whom are poor and entered the state during the past decade.

“My guess is . . . that where the population increase has been greatest, you will find much of the increase in poverty,” said J. Eugene Grigsby, an associate professor of Urban Planning and acting director of the Center for Afro-American Studies at UCLA. I would think that the rate of increase will be among Hispanics, followed by Cambodian and Vietnamese and, then, blacks.”

The gulf between rich and poor is especially evident in Los Angeles County, where the wealthiest communities experienced rises in household income of as much as 63% during the 1980s; poor communities, places like Vernon, Lynwood and South Los Angeles, saw increases of less than 5% in median household income.

At the top of the county’s income scale, according to the census, are Hidden Hills, Rolling Hills, Bradbury, Palos Verdes Estates and San Marino, all with median household incomes above $100,000. And at the bottom are Vernon, $17,031; South Los Angeles, $19,382; Cudahy, $22,279; Bell, $22,515; and Huntington Park, $23,595.

Adding to the hardships in the poorest urban communities, many of the people who live there arrived during the past decade, a time of inflationary housing costs and, in some areas, fewer jobs and declining public assistance.

That combination is leading some experts, like Grigsby, to suspect that the immigrant population is largely responsible for the increase in poverty rates, especially among families with children. As the influx of newcomers tails off, which Grigsby and other experts predict, they also expect living conditions to improve, assuming the economy also bounces back from the recession.

Meanwhile, the wave of immigration has transformed the city’s population.

Almost 40% of Los Angeles residents are foreign-born, and more than half of the foreign-born population moved to Los Angeles during the past decade. Half of the city’s residents who are 5 and older now speak a language other than English at home, according to the census, and just over 30% indicated to census takers they did not speak English well.

The same phenomenon was true, but to a lesser extent, for the county and the state. The county’s foreign-born population is 32%, the state’s just under 22%. Once again, the census indicates that more than half of the immigrant population arrived during the past decade.

As startling as these figures may be, population experts tend to believe they are low, given the hesitancy of many newcomers to the United States--some here illegally--to acknowledge their presence.

Across the state, the population boom helped generate a crisis in affordable housing, with rents going up 38% during the decade and monthly homeowner costs rising 65%. Both rents and homeowner costs were pushed up well beyond the national median. By 1990, the median rent in California was $620, versus a $424 national median. For California homeowners, the monthly median was $1,077, compared with $702 nationwide. In Los Angeles city and county, median costs for renters and owners were slightly higher than statewide median costs.

But for renters across California, what has pinched hardest has been the proportion of their income going to monthly rent. By 1990, close to half of all tenants in the state were paying more than 30% of their household income in rent. In the city of Los Angeles, just under 40% of renters were devoting more than 35% of their income to rent.

In a city where 40% of all households report annual incomes of less than $25,000, “you can see a lot of people don’t have much left over after paying the rent,” said Greg Lipton, a demographer for the city’s Department of Community Development.

The economy also changed in ways more beneficial to higher wage earners.

By 1990 in Los Angeles County, there were 300,000 more jobs for executives, administrators, managers and professional specialists than there were in 1980. But there were 22,000 fewer jobs in manufacturing.

Overall, the census found that the state’s labor force expanded from 18.1 million to 22.8 million, with the number of people over 16 employed growing from 64% to 67%. The census found close to the same rate of employment in the city and county of Los Angeles.

The proportion of working women with children younger than 6 in the state grew from 46% to nearly 56%, with roughly similar percentages applying to the city and county. In California, the proportion of people 25 or older who have at least a high school diploma grew to 76%. But in the city of Los Angeles, the figure declined from 69% to 67% of the population 25 or older.

Statewide, 23.4% of residents 25 or older have college degrees, up from 20% in 1980. The census reported virtually the same percentage of college graduates for Los Angeles, up 4% in the county and 3% in the city.

The census found that there are more than 4.4 million people over 25 who don’t have high school diplomas, more than half of them lacking even a ninth-grade education. The 4.4 million represent about 24% of the state’s over-25 population and is actually slightly lower than the proportion of adults who did not have high school diplomas in 1980. The rate of adults without diplomas was higher in both the city and county of Los Angeles, where the figure hovered around 30%--no change over the past 10 years.

Among California’s teen-agers, the census found that 14% of all 16- to 19-year-olds were not in school, and more than half of those were not working. In Los Angeles County, 17% of young people in that age bracket were not in school and, again, more them half of them not working. That means that across the county, about 50,000 16- to 19-year-olds are neither working nor attending school, about 2,000 more than in 1980.

The census also reported on commuting habits and found that 71.6% of California drivers commute to work alone, a slightly higher percentage than during the 1970s. The number of people using public transportation statewide dropped from 6% in 1980 to 4.9% in 1990. In Los Angeles County, the percentage of drivers commuting to work alone increased slightly, to just over 70%, while the lone driving rate in the city remained about 65%.

L.A. AND THE CENSUS Information just released from the 1990 census shows residents of the city and county of Los Angeles to be more educated and earning more money. Among the findings: Median Income Los Angeles County’s median household income rose 18.8% to $34,965. The state median income rose 17.1%. 1980 incomes have been adjusted for inflation. Poverty Level Up The city and county poverty level for individuals rose by 2.5% and 1.7%, respectively,on par with the state rise of 1.1% Graduation Rate Los Angeles city and county had lower rates in 1990 than the state for those 25 and older with high school or college degrees. Language Only 54.6% of those 5 and older in the county speak English at home-down from 68.6%in 1980. And in the city, 50.1% speak English, compared to 64.9% a decade earlier. L.A. City 1980: $26,372 1990: $30,925 1979: 16.4% 1989: 18.9% High School: 67.0% College: 23.0% L.A. County 1980: $29,415 1990: $34,965 1979: 13.4% 1989: 15.1% High School: 70.0% College: 22.3% California 1980: $30,575 1990: $35,798 1979: 11.4% 1989: 12.5% High School: 76.2% College: 23.4% L.A. City 1990 English: 50.1% Spanish: 35.3% Asian or Pacific: 7.7% Other: 6.9% L.A. County 1990 English: 54.6% Spanish: 31.5% Asian or Pacific: 8.3% Other: 5.6% Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Median Household Income 1989 Los Angeles County is home to the richest and poorest cities in Southern California, according to income figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau today.

The bureau determined median household income for each incorporated city, which is mapped here using different shades to represent five income brackets. The maps shows the distribution of the wealthy, middle class and the poor measured across the six-county Southern California area. Charted below is a city-by-city breakdown.

Median income means that half of the residents in that city earn more than the median and half earn less. The data covers 1989, the last full year before the 1990 Census.

Income Breakdown for Southland Cities Following is a list of incorporated cities in a five-county Southern California area with median earnings of residents in 1989 and the percentage change in those earnings since 1979.

‘89 Median % Rise or Household Decline City Income Since ’79 LOS ANGELES COUNTY Agoura Hills $70,919 0.0% Alhambra $31,368 15.0% Arcadia $47,347 13.5% Artesia $36,383 16.3% Avalon $27,610 13.7% Azusa $31,889 15.7% Baldwin Park $32,684 18.6% Bell $22,515 6.3% Bellflower $32,711 16.5% Bell Gardens $23,819 17.1% Beverly Hills $54,348 29.5% Bradbury $105,178 63.0% Burbank $35,959 17.8% Carson $43,882 10.0% Cerritos $59,076 12.6% Claremont $53,479 18.8% Commerce $27,415 7.0% Compton $24,971 10.7% Covina $38,907 11.2% Cudahy $22,279 18.5% Culver City $42,971 15.9% Diamond Bar $60,651 17.5% Downey $36,991 9.3% Duarte $37,695 19.7% El Monte $28,034 21.0% El Segundo $46,352 25.2% Gardena $33,063 6.8% Glendale $34,372 19.2% Glendora $46,116 13.6% Hawaiian Gardens $29,510 17.5% Hawthorne $30,967 6.7% Hermosa Beach $54,497 45.0% Hidden Hills $150,001 45.1% Huntington Park $23,595 24.1% Industry $35,125 27.6% Inglewood $29,881 18.7% Irwindale $33,000 14.2% La Canada-Flintridge $78,965 24.6% La Habra Heights $71,455 11.6% Lakewood $44,700 15.7% La Mirada $47,143 7.9% Lancaster $38,388 13.6% La Puente $33,273 8.4% La Verne $46,587 30.5% Lawndale $34,552 18.7% Lomita $36,222 20.3% Long Beach $31,938 23.8% Los Angeles $30,925 17.3% Lynwood $25,961 2.6% Manhattan Beach $67,723 37.4% Maywood $25,567 21.5% Monrovia $35,684 32.6% Montebello $31,441 5.8% Monterey Park $32,605 -3.3% Norwalk $38,124 16.8% Palmdale $41,974 32.8% Palos Verdes Estates $101,320 24.0% Paramount $29,015 15.7% Pasadena $35,103 28.6% Pico Rivera $34,383 11.5% Pomona $32,132 24.6% Rancho Palos Verdes $79,797 13.4% Redondo Beach $51,913 41.9% Rolling Hills $150,001 19.3% Rolling Hills Estates $86,304 9.7% Rosemead $29,770 13.0% San Dimas $50,268 18.6% San Fernando $32,128 19.2% San Gabriel $32,559 14.3% San Marino $100,077 31.5% Santa Clarita $52,970 0.0% Santa Fe Springs $33,313 6.9% Santa Monica $35,997 29.4% Sierra Madre $46,502 26.4% Signal Hill $36,011 32.1% South El Monte $27,074 11.4% South Gate $27,279 11.4% South Pasadena $43,043 29.1% Temple City $38,789 11.4% Torrance $47,204 16.6% Vernon $17,031 0.0% Walnut $64,333 27.0% West Covina $42,481 4.0% West Hollywood $29,314 27.3% Westlake Village $75,034 0.0% Whittier $38,020 13.7% ORANGE COUNTY Anaheim $39,620 18.0% Brea $51,253 18.6% Buena Park $41,435 11.3% Costa Mesa $40,313 24.6% Cypress $50,981 11.2% Dana Point $54,516 44.3% Fountain Valley $56,255 13.4% Fullerton $41,921 15.5% Garden Grove $39,882 11.3% Huntington Beach $50,633 25.8% Irvine $56,307 7.3% Laguna Beach $53,419 50.6% Laguna Niguel $61,501 22.2% La Habra $39,967 13.2% La Palma $54,364 5.0% Los Alamitos $45,171 22.5% Mission Viejo $61,058 19.9% Newport Beach $60,374 30.9% Orange $46,539 25.6% Placentia $50,945 13.1% San Clemente $46,374 44.4% San Juan Capistrano $46,250 17.1% Santa Ana $35,162 14.3% Seal Beach $32,834 27.9% Stanton $33,367 14.8% Tustin $38,433 15.9% Villa Park $99,906 20.1% Westminster $41,364 7.6% Yorba Linda $67,892 32.9% RIVERSIDE COUNTY Banning $22,514 12.1% Beaumont $22,331 21.4% Blythe $22,847 -7.7% Cathedral City $30,908 11.6% Coachella $23,218 1.7% Corona $43,555 25.6% Desert Hot Springs $20,687 0.3% Hemet $20,382 11.6% Indian Wells $87,942 21.2% Indio $25,976 1.7% Lake Elsinore $30,801 105.9% La Quinta $39,572 20.0% Moreno Valley $42,186 0.0% Norco $51,594 28.4% Palm Desert $37,315 13.3% Palm Springs $27,538 1.7% Perris $28,611 46.2% Rancho Mirage $45,064 18.1% Riverside $34,801 16.3% San Jacinto $20,810 31.8% Temecula $44,270 47.1% SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY Adelanto $18,835 14.9% Apple Valley $34,050 -1.9% Barstow $28,289 -5.9% Big Bear Lake $26,563 0.0% Chino $41,958 5.3% Colton $28,838 20.4% Fontana $35,558 16.1% Grand Terrace $45,127 8.4% Hesperia $30,795 27.3% Highland $31,561 0.0% Loma Linda $33,265 34.4% Montclair $33,084 8.1% Needles $21,009 -23.9% Ontario $35,788 12.3% Rancho Cucamonga $46,193 10.9% Redlands $37,073 13.7% Rialto $36,233 6.1% San Bernardino $25,533 8.1% Twentynine Palms $24,527 26.7% Upland $41,965 15.3% Victorville $28,698 12.8% Yucaipa $27,182 39.6% SAN DIEGO COUNTY Carlsbad $45,739 22.1% Chula Vista $32,012 6.1% Coronado $47,790 43.6% Del Mar $51,821 37.4% El Cajon $28,108 10.1% Encinitas $46,069 56.9% Escondido $32,895 28.6% Imperial Beach $26,464 21.6% La Mesa $31,171 10.7% Lemon Grove $31,851 5.9% National City $22,129 11.9% Oceanside $33,453 33.3% Poway $53,252 32.0% San Diego $33,686 22.5% San Marcos $31,961 4.7% Santee $39,073 14.0% Solana Beach $52,000 27.0% Vista $32,553 27.1% VENTURA COUNTY Camarillo $48,219 19.6% Fillmore $33,482 20.4% Moorpark $60,368 98.8% Ojai $33,247 11.9% Oxnard $37,174 25.8% Port Hueneme $33,554 22.4% Ventura $40,307 28.0% Santa Paula $31,605 19.8% Simi Valley $53,967 21.3% Thousand Oaks $56,856 26.0%

The Story in South Los Angeles In South Los Angeles, the core economic problems have not changed since 1965, but the population has-as evidenced by a large immigration of Latino residents.

Here are some findings from 1990 Census data for the area defined in the accompanying map.

NA indicates not available. Employment More than half of the residents 16 years and older in the area were not employed in 1990, but that was a slight improvement compared with 1980. (In 1965, people 14 and older were counted.)

1990 1980 1965 Unemployed 8.6% 6.3% 5.6% Not in labor force 41.8% 46.0% 47.7%

Ethnicity The racial and ethnic makeup of the area has changed dramatically over the last 25 years, from predominantly black to a mix of black and Latino.

1990 1980 1965 White 2.7% 15.8% 17.4% Black 44.8% 66.7% 81.0% Latino 50.1% 13.7% NA Asian 1.9% 2.0% NA

Welfare Income Welfare assistance has barely kept even with inflation. Adjusted figures below.

1990 1980 1965 Average welfare $5,988 $6,023 NA Income

Welfare The proportion of households receiving welfare assistance grew during the 1980s.

1990 1980 1965 % of welfare 24.9% 19.1% NA households

Household Income Modest gains were made in median household income, after adjusting for inflation. (In 1965, families and unrelated individuals sharing housing were counted.)

1990 1980 1965 Adjusted $19,382 $16,592 $14,635 median Income

Families

1990 1980 1965 Married couples 24.7% 23.4% NA Single mother 15.9% 18.1% NA Single father 4.1% 2.2% NA

Detail of South Los Angeles The Times studied just-released data from the U.S. census for an area of southern Los Angeles, adjacent cities and unincorporated areas, shown below. The general area was devastated by the recent massive civil disturbances and also during the Watts riots in 1965. CENSUS MAP, TABLES: A23


Advertisement