Capitol Alert

77 California cities on ‘economically challenged’ list

Los Angeles, whose downtown is shown in this 2014 photo, is the largest of 77 California cities declared to be “economically challenged” in a new study, more than a quarter of the nation’s cities in that condition. They are marked by low incomes and high unemployment and poverty rates.
Los Angeles, whose downtown is shown in this 2014 photo, is the largest of 77 California cities declared to be “economically challenged” in a new study, more than a quarter of the nation’s cities in that condition. They are marked by low incomes and high unemployment and poverty rates. NYT

Nearly a third of Californians live in 77 “economically challenged” cities – including Los Angeles – with high levels of poverty, and low levels of income and employment, a new study declares.

Moreover, says the report from the National Resource Network, California’s distressed cities are more than a quarter of the 297 U.S. cities over 40,000 population that fall into that category. The organization is affiliated with the White House Council on Strong Cities.

“Economically challenged” cities are defined as those with unemployment rates of 9 percent or above, and/or with more than 20 percent of adults living in poverty.

Population loss is another criterion, but the study found that California’s cities that meet the other measures are generally gaining, not losing, population and are home to 12 million people. Nationally, about 30 percent of cities are classified as economically challenged, but in California it is 40 percent.

The report, released Wednesday at a forum in Los Angeles, draws sharp contrasts between conditions in the state’s troubled cities and those whose residents are, at least in relative terms, prospering.

The study, dubbed “Hidden in Plain Sight,” found that Latinos make up 54 percent of the populations of the former, that their residents’ incomes on average are just 56 percent of those in other cities, and that they are half as likely to have four-year college degrees.

The five most populous California cities singled out in the report are Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, Long Beach and Riverside. The 72 others are mostly in inland regions, with the small smallest being Coachella, near Palm Springs, home to low-wage farm and resort workers.

Three of the cities on the list – San Bernardino, Stockton and Vallejo – have declared bankruptcy in recent years.

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