Part of Central Valley ranked last in quality of life in U.S.

Times Staff Writer

A congressional district that includes poor farming towns west of Fresno ranked dead last in a new study that examines quality of life across the nation.

California’s 20th Congressional District, made up of immigrant-rich communities straddling Interstate 5 in the Central Valley -- including Coalinga, Hanford and Wasco -- scored poorly on measures of earnings, education and health, according to authors of the American Human Development Index, released Wednesday.

Just 100 miles away, California’s 14th District, in Silicon Valley, ranked third highest of the 435 districts.


The disparity points to the need for more equitable access to quality schools, jobs and healthcare, said Adela de la Torre, a UC Davis economist and Chicano studies professor who worked on the report.

“I frankly think this corridor has been neglected for decades,” De la Torre said of the Central Valley district. “The study is an opportunity for us to look at which areas in our state require resources for investment.”

This is the first year of the American Human Development Index, which is patterned after similar indexes of well-being in countries around the world, said report founders Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis. Their goal, they said, is to guide policy debate using factual data culled from a number of sources.

New York’s 14th District, which includes Manhattan’s East Side, placed at the top of the national ranking because of high incomes, the number of residents with college degrees and the broad access to quality healthcare. On average, residents of that district earn three times more, live 4 1/2 years longer and are 10 times more likely to have a college degree than those in the Central Valley district, the study reported.