Thursday, December 10, 2009

Clash of Goods: Diversity & Economic Equality (part II)

A More Appropriate Sign Would Be: Adios Middle Class

Interesting article that documents the growing educational and economical inequality in California, which is well above the national average in post doctorates, as well as high school dropouts. Needless to say the educational bifurcation is strongly connected to growing economic inequality. The growing economic inequality has a strong ethnic component, because:

1) Approximately 65% of California's Mexican immigrants have not completed high school, which means that the large growth in the said population has swelled the number of low skill, low income workers.

2) A disproportionate number of California's Asian immigrants are high skill, high income workers.

3) And as California has greatly raised taxes and spending to expand costly entitlement programs to address this growing economic inequality, which has accelerated the exodus of middle class, mostly white Californians.

The end result is that California is becoming an increasingly diverse and unequal state. And surely this phenomena has increased since the publication of the article in 2001. But, unfortunately few progressives are willing to reconcile, yet alone acknowledge this clash between two social goods: diversity & economic equality.


Analysis: California's new education gap


LOS ANGELES, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- New Census Bureau figures show that California,traditionally America's trendsetter, is pioneering a new kind of class structure, one somewhat reminiscent of highly unequal Latin American countries such as Brazil or Mexico.

Although California was long viewed as the promised land of the American middle class, it is slowly developing a novel U-shaped social system featuring relatively large numbers of both the well-educated and the badly educated sandwiching a shrinking middle.

Although this trend toward greater inequality would seem to be at odds with the ideals of the Democratic Party, it might bode well for Democrats' success in the voting booth, if results from 2000 prove an adequate guide to the future. California, the state that bequeathed Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to the Republican Party, gave Al Gore an impressive 54 percent to 41 percent victory over George W. Bush last November.

According to a Census Bureau Supplementary Survey of 700,000 households across the country, California boasts 2 million recipients of graduate degrees (master's or Ph.D. or professional diplomas such as M.D. or J.D.).Yet this sophisticated state also is home to 2.2 million adults who never even attended high school. Their ranks are up 7 percent from 1990. By contrast, in the rest of America, the number of adults who had never seen the inside of a high school dropped by 30 percent over the past decade.

In California, 10.7 percent of grownups have no more than elementary schooling, compared to only 6.4 percent in the other 49 states. Of all the states in the Union, California now has the lowest percentage of its population with a midle level education consisting of at least a high school diploma or some college, but not a bachelor's degree from a four-year college. Further, the Golden State is now one of only three states with above average percentages of people who never got past elementary school and of holders of graduate degrees. The other two are New Mexico and Rhode Island.

California's educational inequality is driven by both foreign immigration and domestic migration. The state has attracted the top and the bottom of the schooling pyramid, while repelling the middle.Silicon Valley and other technology centers attract the highly educated from Asia and across America. More surprisingly, a prestigious degree is now often expected in Hollywood.A veteran sitcom writer who worked for years on "Married with Children"complained privately about the "Harvard mafia" that she feels increasingly has controlled TV joke writing ever since the Harvard Lampoon-laden screenwriting staff of "The Simpsons" emerged in 1990.

California's upper-middle-class newcomers tend to be liberal, especially on cultural issues. In contrast, Mexican immigrants comprise much of California's huge number of less-educated people. According to a 2000 Census Bureau survey, 65 percent of America's Mexican immigrants never finished high school versus only 9.6 percent of natives. According to the Voter News Service exit poll, California's Hispanics voted 68 percent to 29 percent for Gore.Meanwhile, as immigrants move in, native-born Americans leave California.

From 1990 to 1999, according to University of Michigan demographer William H. Frey, 2.2 million more California residents moved to other states than other Americans moved to California. Frey, who is also with the Milken Institute in Santa Monica, Calif., pointed out, "Another cause of the rise of the California Democrats is selective out-migration of the more rock-ribbed Republicans. The folks who have been leaving California's suburbs for other states have the white, middle-class demographic profiles of Republican voters. California's middle-class families are being squeezed out by real estate prices. And Republicans are heading for whiter states where they won't have to pay taxes for so many social programs for the poor.

"What's at work in New Mexico and Rhode Island, the other two states that are above average in both graduate degrees and adults who've never been to high school? Ever since the Manhattan Project built the atomic bomb during World War II,New Mexico has had a social chasm with Los Alamos physicists and Santa Feglitterati on one side, and poor Mexican-Americans and American Indians on the other. Rhode Island is demographically split between the workers in New England's intellectual-industrial complex and the state's many blue-collar immigrants from the Portuguese-speaking world, most notably the very poor Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa.

California's "education gap" also shows up in income statistics. In California, 6.8 percent of all households make more than $150,000 per year versus 4.1 percent elsewhere. In contrast, 14 percent of California households are poor compared to only12.3 percent of households in the other 49 states. And this measure actually underestimates California's poverty problem, because the federal government uses the same poverty level nationwide, despite California having a higher cost of living. For example, the state's median rent is 30 percent greater than elsewhere.

The evidence from the 2000 election suggests that inequality might be good for the Democratic Party. Gore carried California, New Mexico and Rhode Island. In fact, New Mexico was one of only two states that Gore carried west of the Mississippi River and east of the Pacific Coast states.A plausible consensus has emerged that the 2000 election offers abundant insights into long-term political trends. That's because both parties ran fairly generic candidates and no major crises or issues roiled the race. This allowed underlying regional and class differences to emerge in sharp relief.The Voter News Service exit poll showed Gore carrying the educational extremes.
Nationally, the former vice president won 59 percent to 39 percent among voters without high school degrees. Similarly, he beat Bush 52 per cent to 44 percent among those with postgraduate degrees. In contrast, Bush carried the middle. He beat Gore 49 percent to 48 percent among high school graduates and 51 percent to 45 percent among both those with only some college and those with a bachelor's degree. Strikingly, the percentage of residents with graduate degrees proved one of the strongest predictors of whether a state would vote Republican or Democrat. Gore won only three of the 25 states with the fewest graduate degree holders, but 17 of the 25 highest states. Utah, the destination of so many disgruntled ex-Californians, is emerging as the anti-California. It leads the country with only 2.4 percent of its residents never having attended high school.Paradoxically, this staunchly Republican state, where Gore won only 25 percent of the vote, exemplifies some of the traditional egalitarian ideals of the Democratic Party. A 2000 study by the Economic Policy Institute found Utah to have the most equal income distribution of any state. Still, Utah is more likely to be the anomaly and California the harbinger of the United States' future. If so, this suggests that the Democratic Party's politicians will be better served than the party's ideals of educational and economic equality.

-- Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved. --

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