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A Renewed Struggle for the American Dream: PRRI 2018 California Workers Survey

Executive Summary


The PRRI 2018 California Workers Survey provides a portrait of the working lives of Californians, via a random probability survey of 3,318 California residents. The survey focuses on how experiences differ by region, race and ethnicity, gender, age, educational status, and other characteristics. Additionally, the survey includes an oversample of those working and struggling with poverty—bringing the total of this group to more than 1,000—and provides insights into their unique experiences, challenges, and aspirations. For the purposes of this study, respondents are classified as “working and struggling with poverty” if they meet two criteria: 1) They are currently employed either full or part-time or are unemployed but still seeking employment; and 2) They live in households that have an adjusted income that is 250% or less than the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, adapted for regional location in California.


California Workers and the American Dream


Nearly one-third of all Californians, and nearly half of California workers, are struggling with poverty.


Among all Californian adults, nearly one-third (31%) are working and struggling with poverty, 36% are working but not struggling with poverty, and 32% are retired, students, or otherwise not working.Among California workers, nearly half (47%) are struggling with poverty, while 53% are not.A majority (60%) of Californians who are working and struggling with poverty are Hispanic. Compared to all Californians, workers who are struggling with poverty are significantly less likely to be white (42% vs. 21%) or Asian or Pacific Islander (API) (16% vs. 11%), but notably not any more likely to be black (5% vs. 6%).More than two-thirds (68%) of the workers in the San Joaquin Valley region are struggling with poverty, as are majorities of workers in the Central Coast (56%) and Sacramento Valley (56%) regions. By contrast, only 27% of the workers in the Bay Area fall into this category.


About one in ten Californians work in the “gig economy.”

About one in ten (11%) Californians report participating in the gig economy in the last year, defined as being paid for performing miscellaneous tasks or providing services for others, such as shopping, delivering household items, assisting with childcare, or driving for a ride-hailing app.


Workers who are struggling with poverty are about twice as likely as workers who are not struggling to report participating in the gig economy in the last year (17% vs. 9%).About half (48%) of those participating in the gig economy are workers struggling with poverty.


Californians are not optimistic about the existence of the American Dream or the California Dream.


Fewer than half (47%) of Californians believe the American Dream—that if you work hard you will get ahead—still holds true today. A majority believe it once held true but no longer does (43%) or that it never held true (10%).Californians are even more pessimistic about the existence of the California Dream, defined as the idea that the American Dream is more attainable in California than in other parts of the country. A majority (55%) of Californians say the American Dream is actually harder to achieve in their state than elsewhere in the United States.


Notably, California workers who are struggling with poverty are less likely than workers who are not struggling to say that the American Dream is harder to achieve in California than in other parts of the U.S. (50% vs. 59%).


Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Californians say they would advise young people in their communities to leave to find more opportunity elsewhere. Attitudes among the residents of most regions within California are similar to statewide numbers, with two exceptions:More than three-quarters (77%) of San Joaquin Valley residents say they would encourage people to leave for better opportunities.On the other hand, the Bay Area is the only region in which a majority (54%) of residents say they would encourage young people to stay in the area.


Young Californians less likely to think of a college education as a smart investment in the future.

While more than six in ten (62%) Californians overall believe that a college education is a smart investment in the future, young Californians (ages 18 to 29) are significantly less likely than seniors (ages 65 and older) to believe a college education is a smart investment (51% vs. 66%). Nearly half (46%) of young Californians say that getting a college education is a risky gamble that may not pay off.


Workers who are struggling with poverty are more likely than those who are not to report experiencing a range of economic hardships.


Putting off seeing a doctor or purchasing medication for financial reasons (42% vs. 16%)Having difficulty paying rent or mortgage (37% vs. 16%)Being unable to pay a monthly bill (35% vs. 15%)Reducing meals or cutting back on food to save money (43% vs. 18%)


Workers who are struggling with poverty are more likely than those who are not to report worrying about affordable housing or say they might not be able to pay for emergency expenses.


More than half (51%) of Californians are somewhat or very worried that they or someone in their family will be unable to find affordable housing. Workers who are struggling with poverty are substantially more likely than those who are not to say they’re concerned about finding affordable housing (64% vs. 43%).A majority (56%) of workers who are struggling with poverty, compared to only 24% of those not struggling, report that it would be at least somewhat difficult to meet a $400 emergency expense.


Contrary to some negative stereotypes, workers struggling with poverty are more likely than those who are not to say they highly value a number of social and economic goals.

Workers who are struggling with poverty are more likely than workers who are not struggling with poverty to say the following are the most important goals in their lives:


Being a good parent (74% vs. 64%)Holding a stable, well-paying job (57% vs. 41%)Being involved in a religious community (20% vs. 9%)


The Working Lives of Californians


Californians who are working and struggling with poverty are more likely than workers who are more economically secure to report that they or someone in their household have experienced a variety of negative workplace experiences in the past year.


Almost six in ten (59%) Californians who are working and struggling with poverty, compared to 46% of workers who are not struggling with poverty, report having at least one negative workplace experience in the past year.Californians who are working and struggling with poverty are more likely than those who are not struggling with poverty to report that they or someone in their household has experienced each of these specific negative workplace events in the last year:Being injured on the job (24% vs. 11%)Experiencing racial discrimination or bias in the workplace (19% vs. 10%)Being paid less than the minimum wage (16% vs. 6%)Having tips taken by another employee or an employer (12% vs. 5%)Experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace (12% vs. 9%)Having wages withheld without cause (11% vs. 5%)Experiencing sexual assault in the workplace (8% vs. 4%)On several wage theft metrics, however, workers who are struggling with poverty report negative experiences at levels that are similar to more economically secure workers.More than one-quarter (26%) of both groups report being required to work through their lunch break or receiving no break at all.About one in five (17% vs. 18%) respondents in each group report being required to work overtime without being paid for it.


Most California workers feel replaceable.

Two-thirds (67%) of Californians, including 75% of workers who are struggling with poverty, say that employers generally see people like them as replaceable. Hispanic Californians are particularly likely to feel dispensable at work. More than three-quarters (76%) of Hispanic Californians say that employers see people like them as replaceable.


Californians who are working and struggling with poverty tend to believe that the deck is stacked against them economically, but they also see the importance of workers organizing to protect their rights.


A majority (54%) of Californians, including 65% of workers who are struggling with poverty, believe that hard work and determination are no guarantee of success in life.A majority (53%) of those who are working and struggling with poverty agree that there is not much people like them can do to improve their working conditions, compared to about one-third (35%) of workers who are not struggling with poverty.Nevertheless, nearly three-quarters (73%) of Californians agree that it is important for workers to organize so that employers do not take advantage of them. Among workers, those who are struggling with poverty are modestly more likely than those who are not struggling with poverty to say that workers organizing is important (80% vs. 70%).


Californians Working and Struggling With Poverty


Definitions


Working and Struggling With Poverty


The PRRI 2018 California Workers Survey provides a portrait of the working lives of California residents, via a random probability survey of 3,318 respondents who live in California, with a focus on how their experiences differ by region, race and ethnicity, gender, age, and educational status among other characteristics. Additionally, the survey includes an oversample of those working and struggling with poverty—bringing the total of this group to more than 1,000—and provides insights into their unique experiences, challenges, and aspirations.


For the purposes of this study, those who said they were currently employed full or part-time, those who are unemployed and on a temporary layoff from a job, or those who are unemployed but still seeking employment are defined as “working.”


In order to define identify those who are “struggling with poverty,” the study uses a poverty threshold for each respondent based on the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure. More specifically, it uses the California Poverty Measure, which adjusts for geographic location within California. Californians living in households with an adjusted income that is 250% or less than their personal poverty threshold are classified as struggling with poverty. For example, if a household has a poverty threshold of $24,000—the threshold of the median respondent in the survey—they would be classified as struggling with poverty if their adjusted income was $60,000 or less. This cutoff is designed to include not only those actively living in poverty at the time of the survey but also those whose economic condition is tenuous.


Respondents meeting these two conditions are classified as working and struggling with poverty. This report also refers to those who are working but not struggling with poverty. These are individuals who are working and whose adjusted household incomes exceeds 250% of their poverty threshold.


Regional Definitions


California contains multitudes. It has the nation’s largest economy, a population of almost 40 million, and occupies more than 160,000 square miles. In order to capture that diversity, the geographic analysis in this report focuses on seven regions within California:1

Bay Area. Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma counties.Central Coast. Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Ventura counties.Inland Empire. Riverside and San Bernardino counties.Los Angeles. Los Angeles county.Sacramento Valley. Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sutter, Tehama, Yolo, and Yuba counties.San Joaquin Valley. Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties.South Coast and Border. Imperial, Orange, and San Diego counties.


Demographic Profile of Californians Who Are Working and Struggling With Poverty


Among all Californian adults, nearly one-third (31%) are working and struggling with poverty, 36% are working but not struggling with poverty, and 32%2 are not working. Among California workers, nearly half (47%) are struggling with poverty, compared to 53% who are not.

Californians who are working and struggling with poverty are more likely than Californians overall to be Hispanic and less likely to be white3 or Asian or Pacific Islander (API), but notably not more likely to be black. A majority (60%) of Californians who are working and struggling with poverty are Hispanic, compared to about one in three (34%) Californians overall and one in five (20%) of those who are working but not struggling with poverty. Only 21% of workers struggling with poverty are white, but whites make up 42% of Californians overall. Eleven percent of Californians struggling with poverty are API and only six percent are black. Among all Californians, 16% are API and five percent are black.4

California workers struggling with poverty generally have a lower level of education than workers who are not struggling. Nearly nine in ten (88%) workers who are struggling with poverty do not have a four-year college degree, including about six in ten (62%) who have a high school education or less. Statewide, 67% of all residents and 41% of workers who are not struggling with poverty lack a four-year degree. Only about one in ten (12%) economically struggling workers have a four-year college degree, compared to one in three (33%) Californians and almost six in ten (59%) workers who are not economically struggling.


Workers struggling with poverty are also more likely to be young (18 to 29 years old) than Californians overall. One in three (33%) California workers struggling with poverty are young, compared to less than one in five (18%) workers who are not economically struggling.5


Among California workers, there is also significant regional variation in economic status. More than two-thirds (68%) of the workers in the San Joaquin Valley region are struggling with poverty. In addition, a majority of workers in the Central Coast (56%) and Sacramento Valley (56%) regions and about half of those who live in the Inland Empire (51%), Los Angeles (49%), and South Coast and Border (45%) regions are struggling with poverty. By contrast, only 27% of the workers in the Bay Area region fall into this category.

Views on Economic Opportunity, Efficacy, and Mobility


Belief in the American Dream


Californians, including those who are working but struggling with poverty, are divided over whether the American Dream—the idea that if you work hard, you will get ahead—still holds true today. Nearly half (47%) of California residents say this is still true today, compared to 43% who say that the American Dream once held true but no longer does today, and 10% who say the American Dream <em>never</em> held true. Workers struggling with poverty and workers who are not struggling with poverty are about equally likely to say the American Dream still holds true (45% vs. 49%), that it once held true but does not anymore (43% vs. 41%), or that it never held true (11% vs. 10%).


Men express more confidence than women in the American Dream. A majority (52%) of California men say that the American Dream still holds true, while fewer than four in ten (38%) say that the American Dream once held true but does not anymore. In contrast, only about four in ten (42%) women say that the American Dream still holds true, while nearly half (47%) say it no longer holds true. Ten percent of both Californian men and women say the American Dream never held true.


There is a significant diversity of opinion among Californians from different racial and ethnic groups. A majority (55%) of API Californians and nearly half (49%) of Hispanic residents say the American Dream is still a reality, while fewer white (43%) and black (39%) Californians agree. Nearly half of white (48%) and black (48%) residents say that the American Dream once held true but no longer does, and about one in ten (8% and 13%, respectively) say that the American Dream never held true. The racial and ethnic divide is even larger among those working and struggling with poverty, where Hispanics are 20 percentage points more likely than whites to say the American Dream still holds true (52% vs. 32%).

Notably, there are no significant differences of opinion among Californians by age. About half of young California residents (ages 18 to 29) and a similar number of California seniors (ages 65 and older) say the American Dream remains true today (45% vs. 48%).


The California Dream


In addition to the American Dream, Californians also talk about the <em>California Dream</em>. Though the expression has had different meanings throughout the state’s history, a common understanding of the phrase today is that the American Dream—the idea that working hard and playing by the rules will be rewarded with financial security and economic well-being—is more likely to occur in California than elsewhere in the country.


Today, however, Californians are actually more pessimistic about the existence of the American Dream in their state compared to other parts of the country. A majority (55%) of Californians say that the American Dream is harder to achieve in California than elsewhere in the United States. About three in ten (29%) Californians say it is about as difficult to achieve the American Dream in California as it is elsewhere in the country, and only 16% say the American Dream is easier to achieve in California than in the rest of the nation.


Notably, Californians who are working and struggling with poverty are actually less pessimistic than other California workers about the existence of the American Dream in California. While nearly six in ten (59%) California workers who are not struggling with poverty say that achieving the American Dream is more difficult in California than it is elsewhere in the U.S., half (50%) of workers who are struggling with poverty agree.


Hispanic Californians are generally less pessimistic about the American Dream in California compared to other racial and ethnic groups. While a majority of white (63%), black (58%), and API (56%) residents say the American Dream is more difficult to achieve in California than in the rest of the country, only 43% of Hispanic Californians say the same. Nearly four in ten (37%) Hispanic Californians say it is about as easy to achieve the American Dream in California as it is in other states. There are similar racial and ethnic divides among those working and struggling with poverty. Hispanics in this group are less likely than their white counterparts to say that the American Dream is harder to achieve in California (39% vs. 71%) and more likely to believe it is easier to achieve in California compared to other states (20% vs. 6%).

Economic Mobility


Geographic Mobility: Difficulty Relocating for a New Job

More than six in ten Californians say that it would be very (28%) or somewhat (34%) difficult to relocate if they found a good or better job. About one-third say it would be not too difficult (21%) or not at all difficult (14%). Notably, Californians who are working and struggling with poverty (60%) are about equally likely as Californians who are working but not struggling with poverty (64%) to say that it would be at least somewhat difficult to relocate if they found a good or better job.


White and API Californians are more likely than members of other racial and ethnic groups to say it would be difficult to relocate. More than two-thirds of white (68%) and API (68%) Californians say that it would be very or somewhat difficult to relocate if they found a good or better job. Fifty-five percent of Hispanic Californians and fewer than half of black (48%) Californians say that relocating would be difficult. These racial and ethnic differences are similar among those who are working and struggling with poverty. White Californians working and struggling with poverty are more likely than their Hispanic counterparts to say that it would be difficult to relocate (72% vs. 57%).


There are few differences among residents of California’s various regions on this question.


Class Mobility: Then vs. Now


While most Californians describe themselves as coming from a working or lower-class family, they generally describe their current economic situation as better than the one in which they grew up. Asked to describe their family’s financial position growing up and their current financial standing, Californians are less likely to describe their present day status as lower class (13% vs. 7%) or working class (40% vs. 30%). Californians are more likely to describe their current financial situation as middle class (36% vs. 44%) or upper-middle or upper class (10% vs. 17%).


This also holds true among those working and struggling with poverty. Compared to their description family’s economic status when they were a child, Californians who are working and struggling with poverty are less likely to say that they are currently lower class (19% vs. 11%), are more likely to describe themselves as working class (44% vs. 54%), and are about as likely to say they are middle class (32% vs. 29%).


Among all major racial and ethnic groups, Californians are more likely to indicate that their current economic status is higher than the one into which they were born.


Most Californians Believe Young People Should Seek Opportunities Elsewhere


Looking ahead, most Californians are pessimistic about economic opportunities for young people in their local communities. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Californians say they would generally encourage young people in their community to leave to find more opportunity elsewhere, while only about one-third (34%) say that they would encourage young people to stay in the area.


California residents who are working and struggling with poverty are only modestly more pessimistic than more financially secure workers about economic opportunities for young people. More than two-thirds (68%) of Californians who are working and struggling with poverty say they would encourage young people in their community to leave for better opportunities, compared to about six in ten (61%) Californians who are working but not struggling with poverty.


There is a sizable education gap on this question. Compared to Californians with a four-year college degree, those without a college education are more likely to advise young people to leave their community for more opportunity (55% vs. 69%).


With the exception of API Californians, the views of Californians of different racial and ethnic backgrounds are quite similar. Roughly two-thirds of white (67%), Hispanic (66%), and black (66%) Californians say that young people should leave their community in search of better opportunities. API Californians are more divided on whether young people in their area should leave to find better opportunities (51%) or stay locally (48%). Among those who are working and struggling with poverty, Hispanics are less likely than whites to say young people should leave their community (63% vs. 77%) and more likely to say they should stay (35% vs. 22%).

Regionally, the Bay Area stands out because of its residents’ belief that young people can find the best opportunities in their community. A majority (54%) of Bay Area residents say that young people should stay in the area to pursue economic opportunities, while only about one-third of residents in the Central Coast (35%), Sacramento Valley (34%), Los Angeles (32%), South Coast and Border (31%), and Inland Empire (29%) regions feel the same. Residents of the San Joaquin Valley are especially pessimistic: Only 19% say young people should stay in the area, while 77% say they would encourage young people to seek opportunities elsewhere.


Personal Efficacy


Hard Work Not Seen as a Guarantee of Success


Californians tend to reject the idea that hard work and determination are a guarantee of success for most people. A majority (54%) of Californians say that hard work and determination alone provide no guarantee of success for most people, while about four in ten (44%) disagree.

There is a notable divide on this question among California workers of different economic status. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Californians working and struggling with poverty say that hard work and determination do not promise success for most people, while only one-third (33%) say these ingredients alone assure success. In contrast, workers who are not economically struggling are evenly split—about half (49%) say that with hard work and determination, most people will be successful, while a similar number (50%) do not hold this view.


Educational attainment is a significant dividing line for Californians as well. Californians without a four-year college degree are substantially more likely than Californians with a college degree to say that hard work and determination do not guarantee success (59% vs. 46%).

Black and Hispanic Californians express considerably greater pessimism than other racial and ethnic groups about the efficacy of hard work. While more than six in ten Hispanic (63%) and black (61%) Californians say that hard work does not necessarily lead to success, only about half of white (51%) and API (47%) Californians express this view. However, this racial and ethnic divide is less pronounced among workers who are struggling with poverty. Among those working and struggling with poverty, roughly equal numbers of white (68%) and Hispanic (66%) Californians agree that hard work and determination are not guarantees of success.


Perceptions of Efficacy: Changing Financial and Workplace Conditions


Most Californians believe that it is possible to change one’s financial situation, though a sizable number say this not possible after a certain point. A majority (56%) of Californians reject the idea that at some point there is little a person can do to change their financial situation, while about four in ten (42%) agree with this statement.


Among California workers, those struggling with poverty are less optimistic than those who are not struggling. Half (50%) of workers who are struggling with poverty say that at some point there is not much to do to change one’s economic status, compared to only about one-third (35%) of Californians who are working but not struggling with poverty.


A majority of Californians of different racial and ethnic backgrounds reject the notion that one’s financial situation is fixed, although there is some variation among groups. About two-thirds (66%) of black Californians reject the notion that there is little a person can do to change their financial situation, compared to less than six in ten white (59%), Hispanic (53%), and API (52%) Californians.


Most (56%) Californians say that they think there is something people like them can do to improve their working conditions, compared to 41% who believe there is little that can be done. Among workers, a majority (53%) of those struggling with poverty agree that there is <em>not</em> much people like them can do to improve their working conditions, compared to about one-third (35%) of those who are not struggling.


The Value of Education


Going to College: Smart Investment or Risky Gamble?


Most Californians believe in the promise of higher education. More than six in ten (62%) Californians believe that a college education is a smart investment in the future, while fewer than four in ten (37%) believe it is a gamble that may not pay off in the end. California workers who are struggling with poverty are about as likely as those not struggling to agree that a college education is a smart investment (59% vs. 63%).


However, there is a sharp generational divide among Californians in views about higher education that may indicate a shift in confidence in higher education as a key to success. Only around half (51%) of young Californians (ages 18-29) say attending college is wise investment, while nearly as many (46%) say it is a gamble that may not pay off. In contrast, nearly two-thirds (66%) of Californians over the age of 65 believe that college is a smart investment.

Importantly, Hispanic and API Californians are more likely than white and black Californians to see value in higher education. Nearly seven in ten Hispanic (69%) and API (69%) residents believe that a college education is a worthy investment, compared to 60% of black residents and 56% of white residents. This racial divide is much more pronounced among those who are working and struggling with poverty. Hispanics in this group are much more likely than their white counterparts to say that a college education is a smart investment (70% vs. 44%).


College graduates in California are more likely to see the value of a college education, with nearly three-quarters (73%) saying it is a smart investment for the future. Far fewer (57%) Californians who lack a four-year degree express the same sentiment.


There are also regional differences on this issue. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Bay Area residents say that a college education is a smart investment in the future—which is likely in part a reflection of the region’s well-educated residents.<sup>8</sup> About six in ten residents of Los Angeles (64%), the Central Coast (60%), the South Coast and Border (60%), the Inland Empire (59%), and the San Joaquin Valley (58%) say the same. Residents of the Sacramento Valley were least likely to agree, with a little more than half (54%) saying a college education is a smart investment.


Family Expectations


A majority of Californians report growing up in a family where the expectation was to go to four-year college (44%) or a community college (11%). About one-quarter say they were expected to either enroll in a vocational program (6%) or get a job (17%). More than one in five (22%) say that their family did not talk about these things.


Workers who are struggling with poverty report having very different familial expectations when they were growing up than workers who are not struggling. Compared to those who are not struggling with poverty, struggling workers are nearly half as likely to say that they were expected to go to a four-year college (59% vs. 32%). Nearly half of struggling workers report that they were expected to immediately get a job (24%) or that this was not something their family talked about (22%).

The education gap on this question is stark. More than eight in ten (81%) Californians with a four-year college degree report that their family expected them to go on to a four-year college after high school. In contrast, among Californians without a four-year college education, only 25% report similar familial expectations.


Young Californians are more likely to report an expectation that they go to a four-year college than seniors. Nearly two-thirds of young Californians (ages 18 – 29) say their family expected them to attend a four-year college (49%) or a community college (17%). Less than half of seniors (ages 65 and older) report that their family expected them to go to a four-year college (39%) or community college (10%). More than four in ten seniors say that they were expected to immediately get a job (18%) or that this was never discussed growing up (25%).


API Californians are significantly more likely than members of other racial and ethnic groups to report being expected to attend a four-year college. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of API Californians say they were expected to go to a four-year college, compared to 43% of white residents, 41% of black residents, and 33% of Hispanic residents.


In regions where a college education is more likely to be seen as a smart investment, residents are also likelier to report that they were expected to go to a four-year college. For instance, 64% of Bay Area residents say they were expected to go to a four-year college, compared to roughly one in three residents of the Sacramento Valley (34%), the Inland Empire (31%) and the San Joaquin Valley (29%).


Personal Financial Situation


How Are You Doing Compared to: Other Americans? Other Californians?


Californians tend to be optimistic about their personal financial status compared to other Americans and more pessimistic about their financial status compared to other Californians.

Four in ten (40%) Californians say they are doing better financially than most other Americans, while roughly the same number (43%) say they are doing about the same. Only 16% say they are doing worse compared to most other Americans.


California workers who are struggling with poverty are less optimistic about their financial standing. Only 22% of struggling workers, compared to a majority (54%) of workers who are not struggling with poverty, believe they are better off than other Americans. Still, about half (49%) of struggling workers say they are doing about as well as other Americans, while only 28% say they are doing worse.


Those belonging to different racial and ethnic groups have notably different assessments of their relative financial situation. About half of API (51%) and white (49%) Californians say that they are doing better than most other Americans, a view shared by significantly fewer Hispanic (30%) and black (22%) Californians. But more than half of black (57%) and Hispanic (51%) Californians say they are doing about the same as other Americans, a view shared by significantly smaller number of API (40%) and white (36%) Americans. Relatively few Californians, regardless of their race or ethnic background, perceive that they are worse off financially than other Americans. Fewer than one-quarter of black (21%), Hispanic (18%), white (15%), and API (9%) Californians say they are doing worse than most other Americans.


Across California’s regions, however, there are vastly different perceptions of personal financial situation when compared to most other Americans. Nearly six in ten (57%) Bay Area residents say they’re doing better than most other Americans, while only about one-quarter (26%) of San Joaquin Valley residents say the same about their personal financial situation.


Residents of the Golden State are more pessimistic about their financial situation relative to other Californians. Fewer than three in ten (29%) of California residents say they are doing better than other Californians. A slim majority (51%) report that they are about as well off as other residents, while 19% say they are doing worse.


Californians who are working and struggling with poverty are significantly more likely than those not struggling to say they are worse off than other Californians. Fifteen percent of struggling workers say they are doing better than other Californians, while 56% say they are doing about the same as their fellow state residents. Nearly three in ten (28%) say they are worse off than other Californians. The pattern among workers not struggling with poverty is markedly different. Nearly four in ten (39%) workers who are not struggling with poverty say they are in a better financial position than their fellow California residents, while half (49%) say they are doing about the same. Only 12% say they are in worse shape financially.


Among workers struggling with poverty, Hispanic Californians are less likely than their white counterparts to say they are doing worse than other Californians (16% vs. 44%) and more likely to say they are doing about the same (62% vs. 45%).


Economic Distress


A significant number of Californians and an even greater share of those working and struggling with poverty report experiencing a range of hardships. Lost in the many technical measurements of poverty are the more tangible lived experiences that define individuals’ distress. The survey included a robust array of questions aimed at understanding the unique economic experiences of different Californians, including those who are working and struggling with poverty, and providing a more complete picture of the difficulties, challenges, and obligations that are part of their daily lives.


Respondents were asked if they or someone in their household had personally done or experienced any of the following in the last 12 months:


Put off seeing a doctor or purchasing medication for financial reasonsWas not able to pay a monthly billReceived food stampsReduced meals or cut back on food to save moneyReceived unemployment benefitsReceived food from a food bank or pantryUsed a payday lending serviceHelped parents or in-laws financiallyReceived financial help from friends or familyHad difficulty paying rent or mortgage


Almost six in ten (59%) Californians report that they or someone in their household has dealt with at least one of these issues in the last 12 months. More than one in four (27%) Californians report that they or someone in their household had to reduce meals or cut back on food to save money. One-quarter (25%) of California residents report that they or someone in their household put off seeing a doctor or purchasing medication for financial reasons. More than one in five (22%) report difficulty paying their mortgage or rent, while a similar number report that they or someone in their household was unable to pay a monthly bill (21%). Almost one-third of Californians report helping their parents or in-laws financially (32%) in the last year.


Fewer than one five report that their household received food stamps (16%) or received food from a food bank or pantry in the last year (13%). A similar number (15%) report that they or someone in their household received unemployment benefits.


More than one in five (22%) Californians report having received financial help from a friend or family member, while 11% say they or someone in their household used a payday lending service at some point in the last year.

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Continue article here: https://www.prri.org/research/renewed_struggle_for_the_american_dream-prri_2018_california_workers_survey/

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