Q: Is the California Dream Lost?


ImageQ&A with Dr. Lynn Reaser!

A: Maybe not quite yet.  Despite the devastation of the great recession that pummeled income growth in our golden state, real income per capita has recently bounced back.  Last year, it equaled $44,500.  While still down from the 2007 peak of over $46,000 (in 2011 dollars), it was a third more than the level of two decades ago and double the level of four decades ago.

Although real income growth has slowed so has population growth.  Last year, California’s population increased by just 0.7%, while total real income achieved a gain of 2.7%.  As a result, income per person, adjusted for inflation, increased by 2.0% in 2911.  This represents growth in line with our long-term historical average.

Yet, there is still a lot to be worried about.  Anxiety and criticism have recently escalated over increases in income inequality.  Much of the slowdown in population growth also reflects the fact that more people have left California for other states than have come here from the rest of the country for each of the past ten years.  Continuation of that trend could sap the potential for gains in our intellectual and entrepreneurial talent and our capacity to preserve the California dream.

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One response to “Q: Is the California Dream Lost?

  1. The average income doesn’t tell us much. The median income would probably show us why people are voting with their feet.

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