For generations, California’s racial minorities, like their Caucasian counterparts, embraced the notion of an American Dream that included owning a house. Unlike kids from wealthy families—primarily white—who can afford elite educations and can sometimes purchase houses with parental help, Latinos and blacks, usually without much in the way of family resources, are increasingly priced out of the market. In California, Hispanics and blacks face housing prices that are approximately twice the national average, relative to income. Unsurprisingly, African-American and Hispanic homeownership rates have dropped considerably more than those of Asians and whites—four times the rate in the rest of the country. California’s white homeownership rate remains above 62 percent, but just 42 percent of all Latino households, and only 33 percent of all black households, own their own homes.
In contrast, African-Americans do far better, in terms of income and homeownership, in places like Dallas-Fort Worth or greater Houston than in socially enlightened locales such as Los Angeles or San Francisco. Houston and Dallas boast black homeownership rates of 40 to 50 percent; in deep blue but much costlier Los Angeles and New York, the rate is about 10 percentage points lower.
Rather than achieving upward class mobility, many minorities in California have fallen down the class ladder. This can be seen in California’s overcrowding rate, the nation’s second-worst. Of the 331 zip codes making up the top 1 percent of overcrowded zip codes in the U.S., 134 are found in Southern California, primarily in greater Los Angeles and San Diego, mostly concentrated around heavily Latino areas such as Pico-Union, East Los Angeles, and Santa Ana, in Orange County.
The lack of affordable housing and the disappearance of upward mobility could create a toxic racial environment for California. By the 2030s, large swaths of the state, particularly along the coast, could evolve into a geriatric belt, with an affluent, older boomer population served by a largely minority service-worker class. As white and Asian boomers age, California increasingly will have to depend on children from mainly poorer families with fewer educational resources, living in crowded and even unsanitary conditions, often far from their place of employment, to work for low wages.