California voters also reflect middle class anxiety

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Academic researchers from top American universities delivered some dispiriting news last week: Barely half of 30-year-olds earn more than their parents did at a similar age, an enormous decline from the early 1970s when the incomes of nearly all offspring outpaced their parents.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, even rapid economic growth won’t do much to reverse the trend. In 1970, 92% of American 30-year-olds earned more than their parents did at a similar age, they found. In 2014, that number fell to 51%.

The numbers in California aren’t as stark, but are still disturbing. Chances of rising out of poverty are better in – you guessed it – the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, and worse in the Central Valley and Inland Empire.

A recently-released CalChamber poll has buttressed those empirical findings. Eighty-seven percent of voters agreed with the statement that “Earning enough income to enjoy a middle class lifestyle is becoming impossible in my part of California.”

More ominous was the finding that 59 percent of voters with children living at home agree that “My children will have a better future if they leave California.” This belief that moving out of state will provide a better future for their children is especially strongly held in Orange County and the Central Valley.

Compared with the rest of the country, much of California is prospering. But residents in many regions of the state are raising warning flags, especially parents. Elected officials would be well-advised to address these voters’ core concerns over economic health and generational opportunity.

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