Left Behind: Workers and Their Families in a Changing Los Angeles

Source: Alissa Anderson Garcia, David Carroll, and Jean Ross, California Budget Project, Special Report, September 2006

For generations, Los Angeles has been known as a place where one could go to achieve the American dream. Not long ago, this dream was easily realized in Los Angeles. California’s most populous county was once a place where jobs brought the middle-class lifestyle within reach of anyone who worked hard. Such jobs formed the foundation of Los Angeles’ prosperity and enabled the county to become one of the most vibrant places in California.

Over the past few decades, however, economic and demographic changes have recast the landscape of the Los Angeles economy. Today, low-wage jobs have replaced many of the jobs that once provided a gateway to a middle-class life. As the county’s labor market has changed, many Los Angeles workers and their families have been left behind. Job growth in Los Angeles has lagged that of the rest of the state, and the gap between the wages earned by workers in Los Angeles and the rest of California has widened considerably. As Los Angeles enters the twenty-first century, its promise of the good life has faded. Workers tend to have lower wages, families tend to have lower incomes, and residents have a higher rate of poverty in Los Angeles than in the rest of the state.

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