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Californian’s overall well-being on the rise, but stark disparities continue

San Diego's skyline is shown in this undated photo.
Milan Kovacevic
San Diego's skyline is shown in this undated photo.

California is the most populous and diverse state in the country. And in spite of economic setbacks caused by the pandemic, the state’s GDP has grown and competed on the international stage. If California were a sovereign country, it would boast the 5th largest economy in the world.

But what do these economic factors really mean for Californians?

A new study by Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council, aims to answer that question by providing a portrait of California, focused less on economic measures and more on people’s well-being.


“A Portrait of California 2021-2022” provides a detailed picture of how Californians are faring when it comes to health, education and economic opportunities. Using the American Human Development Index, the study measures Californians’ well-being across racial, ethnic and gender in order to identify disparities.

The study found that overall well-being levels have steadily increased over the past 20 years, but those gains have not been distributed equally, with some groups falling behind.

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Latino Californians saw the largest increase in life-expectancy and overall well-being, but disparities in education continue. The overall well-being of Black and Native American Californians has actually fallen in the past two decades.

Kristen Lewis, the study’s lead author and director of Measure of America, joined Midday Edition on Thursday to share more about what these findings mean and what they mean for San Diego.