Los Cien group launches broad look at inequality between Latinos and whites in Sonoma County
Sonoma County’s largest Latino leadership group announced Thursday the start of a decadelong effort to track major indicators of social, economic and political disparity between whites and Latinos with an aim of promoting greater equality in the region.
The campaign, labeled “Closing the Gaps,” will be driven in part by a Sonoma County Latino Scorecard that identified 10 categories “where we see the greatest disparity for Latinos in our county,” Oscar Chavez, assistant director of the county’s Human Services Department, told an audience of 650 people who packed a Sonoma State University ballroom.
“For the first time, we’re taking a deep dive into how to change the conditions on a local level,” Chavez said in an interview, calling the scorecard “a grand experiment.”
Chavez was one of three speakers at the sixth annual State of the Latino Community in Sonoma County symposium hosted by Los Cien, the leadership group nearing the 10-year anniversary of its founding in a back room at a Santa Rosa restaurant.
Leah Murphy, a Human Services analyst, described the 10 data points called out in the scorecard, with two each in the categories of politics, education, finances, social issues and health.
“At times it may feel a little bit depressing, talking about one disparity after another,” she said.
Eleven percent of elected officials serving on the county’s city councils or Board of Supervisors are Latino and the remainder are white, according to the scorecard.
Other points included:
A quarter of Latino children enter kindergarten ready to learn, compared with nearly half (46%) of white children.
Latino median household income is $59,000 a year, while white households make $76,000, and Murphy noted that $89,000 is needed to meet the basic needs of a family of four. “A lot of us aren’t there yet,” she said.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Latinos live in low-income neighborhoods, compared with 36% of whites.
One-third of Latino adults are obese, compared with 23% of whites, a condition Murphy said carries the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, along with high medical expenses.
Murphy also highlighted the statistic that 11% of the county’s Latinos have a bachelor’s degree or more education, compared with 39% of whites.
A college degree isn’t the only path to a good income, she said, noting that trade jobs pay well, but Murphy said an associate degree boosts median income by about $8,000 and a bachelor’s degree typically adds $22,000.
In closing, Chavez said the scorecard presents “a very ambitious work plan” and Los Cien, over the next 10 years, will regularly check the data, seek strategies to reduce disparity and consider “how can we mobilize our community to get it done.”
David Rabbitt, chairman of the Board of Supervisors and one of many local officials in attendance, said the county works on numerous issues “to ensure the next generation can be even more successful than the last.”
Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said in an interview she appreciated Los Cien’s identification of “very real economic and achievement gaps focused on ethnicity.”
“We can’t be color blind,” she said. “We have to recognize that people of color face socioeconomic barriers and we need to address those.”