Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

About a quarter-century ago, I wrote a book about California’s social, economic, demographic and political evolution and quoted a couple of academics as predicting “the possible emerging of a two-tier economy.”

Today, we can eliminate the “possible” qualifier because it’s a proven fact.

A Census Bureau poverty report and another from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, released simultaneously last week, should remove any lingering doubt about California’s stratification.

The Census Bureau is experimenting with a new way of gauging poverty, one that uses more measures of income and outgo and the cost of living. And by that new standard, California has – by a wide margin – the highest level of poverty of any state, with nearly a quarter of its 38 million residents in that category.

Meanwhile, the CBPP calculated, state by state, gaps in various family income brackets and found that California has the third largest “income inequality” between those in the highest and lowest levels, and the second largest between those in the highest and middle quintiles.

So, to put it in the vernacular, California’s rich are richer and its poor are poorer, in relative terms, than almost anywhere else in the nation. And that stratification also has, as those two academics predicted a quarter-century ago, an ethnic element. They saw a mostly white and Asian overclass, a mostly black and Latino underclass and a smaller middle class.

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