Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Californians already were reckoning with a gap between the state’s aspirations and a more complex reality. “Year after year,” Micah Weinberg, CEO of California Forward, told The Sacramento Bee, “California was holding itself up as a leader in equity and causes of social justice, but it just wasn’t reflected in the data.” California Forward and its partners saw that the state “needed a tool to really be the basis of a collective action, to make real progress on reducing poverty, on reducing racial disparity,” says Weinberg.

Building on several years of analysis and collaborative engagement, California Forward and its partners (with support from Redstone) created a tool to do just that. The California Dream Index, released in December 2020 at the California Economic Summit, aggregates ten indicators backed by research and validated by Californians as key to the California Dream, from housing affordability to air quality to broadband access. The index enables users to view trends in the indicators by year, race and ethnicity, county, and region, so that the index can help communities clarify priorities, hold decision-makers accountable for progress, and celebrate progress as it occurs.

The index illustrates the varied access to the California Dream and uneven progress in recent years. Broadband access increased by roughly 20 percentage points from 2010-2019 to almost 87%, while postsecondary degree or certification attainment has increased slowly but steadily. Conversely, the share of Californians living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty (areas with at least 20% of residents experiencing poverty) has been increasing since 2014.

Inequity also is increasing overall, with the aggregate index score decreasing for Black Californians and those making less than $25,000 while increasing for White, Asian, and Latino Californians as well as those making over $100,000.

The priority now is to ensure that the index drives action towards a more equitable California. California Forward has convened a community of practice including leading researchers and advocates to engage public sector decision-makers in ongoing collaboration based on the index’s insights.

Congrats to California Forward and its partners on these important steps. And now, onward in pursuit of the dream!

To learn more about the index and how you can get involved, see this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuVHsQC5JvM&feature=youtu.be

    About the Authors
  • Jason Blau

    Jason is honored to be a trusted partner to clients rising to the occasion for communities and the planet.

  • Max Dovala

    Max helps foundations and non-profits design, launch, and implement ambitious climate initiatives

  • Noha Kikhia

    Noha partners with social sector leaders to launch initiatives and strategies that drive equity, improve access to services, and advance toward a more inclusive economy.

  • Jeremy Avins

    Jeremy helps social-change leaders build a more equitable and sustainable economy.