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Income Polarization and California's Social Contract


This chapter explores the implications of growing economic and social inequality in California for the state's social contract, as well as the role of government and other institutions in addressing the new polarization. Data from the ILE's 2001-02 California Workforce Survey reveal that a majority of Californians are seriously concerned about the widening economic divide and support public policy measures that would help to narrow it. Respondents with lower incomes and less education are especially supportive of a strong government role in this area, as are noncitizens, Latinos, and African Americans. Because of the concentration of low-wage workers, immigrants, and Latinos in the southern part of the state, attitudes there belie the conservative stereotype of Southern California, traditionally juxtaposed to the relatively liberal attitudes assumed to be typical of the Bay Area. The survey results suggest that today, southern Californians are in fact more supportive of a strong government role than are people in the rest of the state. Southern Californians are also more pro-union than their counterparts elsewhere in the state. Another important topic in the chapter is public policy in regard to the problem of combining work and family responsibilities, with a large majority of survey respondents reporting that they favor compensating workers for family leave, and making child care and elder care more affordable.

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