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Gullixson: Something different: The state of 'us'

  • The railroad tracks serve as a freeway to those transients that sleep by the Petaluma River and downtown Petaluma. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

“The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained.”

— Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002.

As any prognosticator will tell you, predicting the future is not difficult. Being right is the hard part.

When it comes to looking at what's ahead, we really have only ourselves and our past to analyze. And in that way, people are like stocks: Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Nonetheless, it's all we've really got when it comes to looking at where we're going. So with that in mind, I present my own year-opening analysis — the State of Us.

This is not a State of the Union, which you will get on Tuesday (6 p.m. Pacific time) or a State of the State, which you got in a compact 17-minute we've-got-a-surplus-don't-blow-it message on Wednesday from the governor. Nor is it like the we're-OK-the-Central-Valley's-not State of the County address and economic forecast you heard Friday.

This is a state of us.

First, it should come as no surprise, but we are growing older, heavier — and more Latino.

Latinos now equal the number of whites in California — 39 percent — and sometime in the coming days, if not already, are projected to become the largest ethnic group in California. It's a landmark moment.

In Sonoma County, roughly one in four residents is Latino. But Latino families also are disproportionately struggling to make ends meet. More than 60 percent of Latino households in Sonoma County are surviving on $25,000 or less a year. For the county as a whole, less than 19 percent are.

Meanwhile, we also are growing more gray. We are ground zero of what is known as the “Silver Tsunami.”

Today, one in seven Sonoma County residents is 65 or older. By 2030 — just 16 years from now — that share will grow to one in four people, a demographic balance that's expected to hold steady for at least three decades. The number of people 85 or older is expected to triple by 2060, from 11,183 in 2010 to 34,341 in 2060.

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