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California Policies Are Failing Its Growing Latino Population, Report Finds

California Policies Are Failing Its Growing Latino Population, Report Finds

California's climate agenda drives up housing costs and delays construction, researchers say. Above, a project in San Marcos, Calif., on July 28, 2015. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

4/15/2024

Updated: 4/15/2024

California’s Latino residents are paying the price for the state’s high cost of living, climate agenda, and educational shortcomings, according to a new report from Chapman University’s Center for Demographics and Policy.
“Latinos’ elected officials are actually pushing policies that hurt them economically,” Soledad Ursúa, principal at Orinoco Equities and principal researcher for the report, told The Epoch Times April 11. “Latinos need to realize that they need to vote for their own economic interests, and their elected officials are clearly not representing them right now.”
She said decisions at the state level are negatively affecting those intended to benefit from the inclusion agenda.
“California pushes this diversity and equity, but they fail their Latino population, and it’s very troubling,” Ms. Ursúa said. “It’s a civil rights issue.”
Pointing to about 4 million Latinos who chose not to vote in the most recent elections, she argued that if younger generations participated more in the electoral process, real changes could occur.
“That could really be the key to shifting California and restoring sanity,” Ms. Ursúa said. “The future of California is really up to Latinos, so they can decide what they want and if they really want to continue down this road of climate change and net zero [agendas].”
Published April 9 and titled “El Futuro es Latino,” the report details the impact of the Golden State’s policies on its ballooning population of Latinos—who now account for more than 40 percent of all Californians.
“As they have become more prominent in California’s population, and workforce, they have also been among the primary victims of the state’s regulatory regime,” the report reads. “Pivotal players within the state’s ‘carbon economy,’ they are most threatened by California’s draconian carbon-neutrality initiatives.”
More stringent environmental regulations coincided with the Latino population’s skyrocketing growth. Established in 1967, the California Air Resources Board preceded the strict California Environmental Quality Act’s passage in 1970.
As more rules were added to the state’s air-quality guidelines in subsequent decades, industrial employment was significantly impacted—with about 800,000 manufacturing jobs lost between 1990 and 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Employment Wages.
The changes occurred as businesses in emissions-producing industries moved to less-regulated locations, including Texas and China, researchers noted in the report, leading to California becoming the nation’s worst business climate for small firms, according to the Pacific Research Institute’s Small Business Regulation Index.
Making up more than 90 percent of the state’s agricultural workers and with a “significant presence” in construction, logistics, and manufacturing industries, Latinos are increasingly affected by California’s stated goals of achieving “carbon neutrality” by 2045.
Migrant workers harvest strawberries at a farm near Oxnard, Calif.. (Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

Migrant workers harvest strawberries at a farm near Oxnard, Calif.. (Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

Researchers expect new rules mandating electric vehicles at ports and drayage facilities to further worsen business opportunities, as Latinos make up more than 50 percent of California’s transportation industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“California’s ambitious carbon-neutrality plan has been remarkably effective in reducing prospects for lower-income and minority households,” researchers said in the report. “California’s multi-decade climate blueprint, while aiming for positive environmental outcomes, disproportionately harms disadvantaged communities, undermining civil rights and racial equity.”
The Golden State is known for high-paying jobs in certain sectors, including technology and entertainment, but about 85 percent of all jobs created in the last decade have been low-paying—ranking near the bottom nationwide, researchers noted. During the same period, about 1.6 million higher-paying jobs were lost, according to the report.
That’s creating a cost-of-living crisis for some Latinos—who make up half of all Californians living in poverty—and other lower-income earners, researchers noted.

Climate Rules Make Homes Unaffordable

With California’s median home price at nearly $800,000, owning a home is impossible for many workers. The report found that purchasing is “increasingly elusive” for Latino families, with the Golden State ranking 41st nationwide for Latino homeownership.
Environmental quality regulations are partly to blame, researchers concluded.
“Single-family homes are villainized, and they’re pushing for five-unit apartments, but that’s not what people want,” Ms. Ursúa said. “Latinos want to be part of the American Dream, and that includes home ownership.”
By restricting and delaying housing projects, regulations drive up costs and allow environmental activists to block new development, researchers said.
“Today’s ‘radical chic’ anti-housing activists are our climate change warriors,” Jennifer L. Hernandez, leader of Holland & Knight’s West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group, said in the report. “They believe that all people should live in high-density cities, have few or no kids, and happily ride a bike or bus to all destinations.”
She said that lawmakers need to prioritize affordability by amending regulations to facilitate construction.
“To truly solve California’s housing crisis, California’s leaders—which include a record number of Latino legislators— must support housing law reforms that make homeownership attainable again for low- and middle-income workers and families,” Ms. Hernandez said. “Affordable, desirable housing must be provided without taxpayer subsidies from our cash-strapped state and struggling local governments.”
An aerial view of homes in a housing development in Santa Clarita, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

An aerial view of homes in a housing development in Santa Clarita, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Using tax revenues to benefit local communities, allowing single-family home building, and rethinking restrictive climate policies are all vital, she said.
“California will not solve its housing crisis until our government officials resist anti-housing environmental dogma and start returning taxpayer dollars to local governments for essential services,” Ms. Hernandez said.

Schools Fall Short

Making up 56.1 percent of public-school students in the state, Latinos meet educational standards at lower levels than other ethnic groups—with 36 percent meeting or exceeding state standards for English Language Arts studies and less than 23 percent meeting mathematics standards, the report found.
“California’s education system is deeply flawed,” former state Sen. Gloria Romero said in the report. “The reality is simply too stark to ignore.”
While the state spent $128 billion—more than the entire budget for every other state except New York— on K-12 public education in the 2023-2024 fiscal year, about 75 percent of California students fail to meet federal education proficiency standards, according to the report.
“Simply pouring millions into the current flawed system or tinkering with budget formulas or hastily settled court cases is not sufficient,” Romero said. “California’s educational crisis is not one of funding and formulas but must involve the political will and backbone to change the system to one that works for kids—not just for adults employed in the system.”
Researchers pointed to what they called a disproportionate influence from teachers’ unions as a contributing factor to lackluster learning opportunities.
Citing 21 schools named for Cesar Chavez across the state, she said lawmakers should focus more on providing quality education and less on giving token names to facilities—with only one of the schools excelling.
A statue of Cesar Chavez is seen in San Fernando, Calif., on March 30, 2021. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

A statue of Cesar Chavez is seen in San Fernando, Calif., on March 30, 2021. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

“Quite frankly, schools named for heroes—be they Martin Luther King, Jr., or Cesar Chavez—have been more ceremonial, leaving students to languish once the naming festivities and parades concluded,” Ms. Romero said. “What Californians—particularly Latinos—need is not more symbolic gestures but a concerted effort to address the education failures of the state.”
A goal-oriented focus that allocates funds based on performance could prove meaningful, she said—suggesting that schools that fail to meet standards should be penalized while those that excel are rewarded.

Looking to the Future

With California facing a $73 billion deficit, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, and more than 1 million residents fleeing to other states in recent years, Latinos are poised to take advantage of opportunities as they become the majority of the state’s population in coming years, researchers observed.
Though saddled with significant challenges, Latinos remain overwhelmingly optimistic, with 94 percent saying “a strong work ethic and diligent labor” are the keys to success, according to the report.
Rooted in traditional family values and an entrepreneurial spirit that are increasingly opposed by state policies, Latinos are disproportionately affected, the study concluded.
“California’s political establishment seems determined to limit opportunities for working class Californians to live in communities they can afford,” the report said. “On everything from economy to jobs to housing to education, California is failing its largest, and youngest, ethnic group.”
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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