Latinos comprise the largest ethnic group in the largest state of the union. Today, nearly 40 percent of all California residents are of Latino origin – a number that will only grow over the coming decades.
The future of California and the future of its Latino population are one in the same. But when we look at some of the economic and political trends among California’s 14 million Latino residents, there are troubling signs for our community, and for our state’s future.
Politically, we were witness to the tensions that arise for a society undergoing swift and dramatic demographic change in our national elections. Latinos turned out to vote in record numbers both in California and across the country in a campaign that will be remembered as a ‘generational moment’ for the emerging millennial Americans – the most diverse generation in United States history.
Economically, the distress of many working-class Americans in the rust belt states is not that dissimilar from the realities many California Latinos face every day. For too many Latino Californians, the door to the Middle Class is slamming shut just as it is our turn to walk through it has arrived. The abstract ideas of growing income inequality and poverty in our state are very real to our community. We are dangerously close to creating a cycle of economic and political inequality in our state that is breaking along ethnic and racial lines, and is creating a society where certain ethnic groups have economic and political power, while others – the majority it appears – are being left behind.
The direct nexus between the economic and political wellbeing of California’s largest ethnic group is now unmistakable. The health and well-being of our democracy is only as sustainable as the health and welfare of our financial condition. To illuminate these issues, this study examines the historic campaign of 2016 and what it portends for the future of civic engagement and voting behavior going forward in California.