California: A Case Study of the Interaction between Social Policy & the American Dream?

A recent Orange County Register column reviews the changes in California’s economy over the last 40 years:

Forty years ago, California was the role model for education, particularly with its network of community colleges, Howard Jarvisstate universities and, at the apex, the University of California system. Today, that reputation is unraveling. For one thing, we are becoming proportionally less well-educated than our key domestic rivals. From 1970-2010, California’s growth in adults with four or more years of college grew at around the national average – 402 percent – despite average population growth that was nearly twice the national average. California, largely due to the past, still ranks 14th in percentage of adults with a bachelor degree or above, but that is down from seventh in 1970. . . .

. . . .But the state’s real problems can be found further down the educational food-chain. California’s production of adults with some college experience grew from 1970-2010 by 304 percent – which includes people getting skills in community colleges, for example – well below the national average of 409 percent. Meanwhile, our state’s numbers of adults who didn’t advance beyond high school also trailed the nation – 40 percent against a national average of 69 percent.

It is interesting that the article spends paragraphs bemoaning the deterioration of California’s education and public services with out once mentioning one of the real culprits:  Proposition 13.  Forty years ago, California led the nation in the screwball idea that governments could ceaselessly cut taxes without having to pay a price in fewer government services and  lower quality of life.  They (and we all) will be paying the piper for quite a while.

The full Orange County Register column by Joel Kotkin is here.

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