Thursday, October 22, 2015

Independent California? One of the most unequal developed nations.

71 per cent of the world's population hold wealth valued at less than $10,000 with the next 21 per cent having between $10,000 and $100,000.

Only 0.7 per cent have more than US$1 million, but these control 45.2 per cent of total global wealth. The top 1 per cent now own 50.4 per cent of global wealth; that is, 1 per cent of the world's population own more than the remaining 99 per cent.

If California seceded from the union economically, California would rank eighth in the world, ahead of Canada, Italy, and Russia.  Silicon Valle’s  knowledge economy would place us on the global cutting edge in terms of innovation and technological growth.  Unfortunately, California's great wealth is also accompanied by deep pockets of poverty, especially among minorities and less educated Californians.

California ranks near the top of U.S. states in income inequality, as measured by the Gini Index.  While California's Gini Index (48.9) is slightly higher than that of the United States (48.04), the United States ranks at the top of developed nations in income inequality.  This means that California would be one of the most unequal developed countries in the world.

California would also lead the industrialized world in child poverty, again rivaling the United States.  A recent report by the UNICEF Office of Research estimated that in 2012, nearly one in three children in the United States lives in poverty, compared to 8.8% in Finland and 13.4% in South Korea: two nations that are often identified as educational role models.  The same report estimated child poverty in California to be (36%), similar to rates in Alabama (36.5%), Idaho (36.5%), and Oklahoma (36.2%). According to the California Budget and Policy Center, children also represent a disproportionate share of poor Californians: although children comprise 23.7% of the state's population, they represent 32.7% of Californians living in poverty.

Unfortunately, many of California's poor children do not receive adequate health or educational services.  In 2012, 75.5% of low-income families did not have a medical home. Although the percentage of children without health care coverage has declined as a result of federal health care reform, 497,000 Californian children—many of them poor—did not have health insurance in 2014. Additionally, a 2014 report by the California Legislative Analyst's Office found that 54 of California's counties provide fewer than 20% of low-income children with childcare and 26 counties serve fewer than 10% of low-income children. Although the income eligibility limit for subsidized preschool in California has not been updated since 2007, the limit for eligibility was lowered in 2011 from 75% to 70% of the state median income. As a result, many families are ineligible for subsidized childcare or preschool despite receiving relatively low incomes.

High levels of inequality and child poverty are bound to affect educational performance in California; if California were a country, where would it rank educationally? The results of the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) allow us to make a rough comparison, as California was included as a "benchmark" participant in eighth grade mathematics and science.  In both math and science, Californian eighth graders scored below all other US benchmark states (Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina), except Alabama.  Californian eighth graders scored slightly below the international average of participating education systems in both math and science, substantially below top performers like Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Finland, and below nearly all the developed countries participating in the assessment.  In other words, California might be considered a developing or emerging country educationally.

What kind of independent country would California be? It would be one of the wealthiest but most unequal developed nations.  Income inequality and child poverty place a strong drag on the state's educational performance.

No comments: