California’s racial politics is harming minorities

These differences, ironically, have become more evident as California has become relatively less attractive to immigrants. Since the 1980s and 1990s, as California’s economy has become increasingly deindustrialized, the immigration “flood” has slowed, particularly among Hispanics. By the 2010s, other cities — notably Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston — were emerging as bigger magnets for newcomers.

These areas, with lower costs, generally work better for less-skilled immigrants. Latinos in Texas, particularly, do better than their counterparts in California — as measured by homeownership, marriage rates and incomes — and also tend to vote more conservatively.

Part of this reflects different political attitudes among minority leaders in the two states. “We’re not going to do it with welfare, we’re not going to do it with income maintenance, we’re not going to do it remaining contentious and divided,” notes Democrat Henry Cisneros, San Antonio’s first Hispanic mayor and later U.S. secretary of housing and urban development. “We’re going to do it if we come around a single theme: jobs.”

In contrast, California’s racial politics focuses more on serving an increasingly “stranded population” of poor people with limited opportunities for advancement. Indeed, a stunning United Way study found that half of all Latinos, and some 40 percent of African Americans, have incomes below the cost of necessities (the “Real Cost Measure”). Among non-citizens, 60 percent of households have incomes below the Real Cost Measure, a figure that deteriorates to 80 percent among Latinos.