The Sociology of Californians and Wealth Disparity

No matter what your background, leaning, or even possibly, previously held beliefs, there is no denying what many people sense anecdotally at a minimum, and now backed up by a growing body of data: income inequality is on people’s minds. Every economic forum I have attended in the last three years has made mention of this, whether the event was delivered by an economist, politician or business leader. The Field Research Corporation released a study with the following findings,

Majorities of Californians are dissatisfied with the way income and wealth in the state are distributed and believe the gap between the rich and the rest of the population is greater now than in the past. Yet, the public is divided about the extent to which government should try to reduce the wealth gap. In addition, Californians are evenly split when asked about raising the state minimum wage beyond its already scheduled increases.

Regarding the last section cited above, the results are exactly as expected when dealing with any public policy issue that involves the two major parties. Quite honestly, I think that is the part of the poll that most people are least interested in, due to the cynicism and general lack of civility in the discussion of public policy when either party stands to gain or lose as a result of an issue.

There is a very interesting note to this poll as it relates to U.S. born California residents versus foreign-born immigrants,

U.S.-born Californians are more likely to report dissatisfaction with the wealth gap and feel it is greater than in the past. However, they are less apt to feel that government should be doing a lot to try to reduce the gap, and a majority opposes increasing the state minimum wage beyond its already scheduled increases than the foreign-born public.

Foreign-born immigrants, on the other hand, are not nearly as dissatisfied with the way income is distributed in California and are less apt to feel it is greater now than in the past. Yet, a plurality supports government taking a more active role to reduce the wealth disparity, and a majority supports increasing the state minimum wage.

So there is an odd, inverse relationship of opinion among all respondents depending on where they were born and how they feel about the variance in income distribution. And that very same inverse relationship exists among the same respondents on the role of government in resolving this problem. In an interesting footnote to this discussion, the Field Poll found the same pattern to be true among the California Latino population, “majorities of California Latinos born in the U.S. say they are dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed, while Latinos born outside the U.S. are more likely to be satisfied.”

The material point of the survey is the margin of majority who hold these views, cutting across a number of sociological backgrounds as shown in the table below:

Field Poll Income Inequality