California’s riches have attracted many groups. When the Europeans first came to California in the 16th century, perhaps 300,000 Native Americans – 13 percent of America’s indigenous population – lived on its fertile coasts and in its rich valleys and foothills. This population was large, healthy, and peaceful. Other groups—in what can only be called genocide, would replace them through violent conflict and the ravages of disease—as the Catholic Missions, then the Gold Rush, and finally the transcontinental railroads brought many more people to California. The first California Census in 1850—completed just as California became a state and the Gold Rush was booming—enumerated only 92,597 people in California.
Seventy years later in 1920, the population had grown almost forty-fold. With its prosperous economy, fair weather, and other amenities California’s population then grew more than tenfold in the next 100 years from 3.6 million people in 1920 to almost 40 million by 2020—nearly four times the rate of growth of the rest of the United States during that same 100 year period.
This report focuses on the idea that an equitable and inclusive state is one where all residents—regardless of their race/ethnicity, nativity, gender, income, religion, neighborhood of residence, ability, or other characteristics—are able to 1) participate and benefit from the state’s economic vitality, 2) connect to the state’s assets and resources, and 3) contribute to the state’s readiness for the future.
While this report is aimed at highlighting equity gaps that currently exist in California, it is important to acknowledge the complexity and challenge in addressing and solving these issues while simultaneously calling for more aggressive, meaningful, and successful action to address the root causes of these inequities.