In Fresno County, the disparities among people of different races – from job security to housing quality – are among the most staggering in the state.
The diverse county is the eighth “most racially disparate” in California based on a new report that measures quality of life according to economic opportunity, education, crime and justice, housing and other indicators.
The Race Counts report is the first of its kind released by the Advancement Project California, a civil rights organization, and aims to “provide a road map of how we can unwind generations of racial oppression.”
Among the data compiled is a striking difference in Fresno County residents living below the federal poverty rate, meaning their annual income is about $12,000 or less. Thirteen percent of white people in Fresno County are living in poverty, compared to 40 percent of black people and 35 percent of Latinos.
The median household income for Fresno County’s white families, about $60,000, is more than double that of black families, which is $27,000. The median household income for Latino families is $36,000, and it is $51,000 for Asian families.
“As the state’s racial makeup and needs have completely transformed over the past 40 years, many of our public institutions and policies remain stuck in the past,” the report says. “Despite our state’s reputation as the Golden State, generations of low-income communities of color have long been excluded from California’s promise.”
Carmen Medrano, an organizer with Faith in the Valley, worked with researchers to compile the report, and said it solidifies what many Fresnans already know.
“For us, it gave us the data to match the narrative that we knew existed. Even when you just look at the city of Fresno, residents talk about the tale of two cities, the north versus the south,” she said. “This is hard data to back that up.”
More than half of Fresno County residents are Latino; 32 percent are white; 10 percent are Asian and 5 percent are black. While surrounding counties have similar demographics, disparity rankings vary.
Although all of the residents of Fresno County might be feeling some pressures around the economy and housing or lack of education, certain races are feeling it much more.
Carmen Medrano, Faith in the Valley
Kings County was ranked seventh, and Madera County 11th. But nearby Merced County was ranked much better, at 42, and Tulare County ranked 40th. That doesn’t mean those counties are thriving, though.
While Fresno, Madera and Kings counties are labeled “low performance, high disparity” counties, Merced and Tulare are labeled “low performance, low disparity” counties because the difference among races is not as wide.
“We know the challenges that the Central Valley faces. Although all of the residents of Fresno County might be feeling some pressures around the economy and housing or lack of education, certain races are feeling it much more,” Medrano said. “It means that we can target our policy solutions in order to raise up all races here within the community.”
The high school graduate rate for whites in Fresno County is 86 percent, compared to 80 percent for Latinos; 72 percent for blacks and 90 percent for Asians.
While the employment rate for white and Latino residents in Fresno County is about 53 percent, the rate for black residents is 42 percent. The employment rate for Asians living in the county is 50 percent.
Fresno County’s white residents also have the highest rate of homeownership, at nearly 70 percent. Less than 30 percent of Fresno’s black residents own homes. About 42 percent of Latinos are homeowners, and 53 percent of Asians.
We have seen the racial disparity in our community.
Brian Angus, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission
The report also tracks different racial groups’ access to parks and grocery stores, sense of safety in their neighborhoods and more.
Sandra Celedon, executive director of Fresno Building Healthy Communities, said the report has inspired a renewed call to action.
“We’ve heard time and time again from residents about their lack of access to healthy foods, how far they have to travel to a grocery store, and the time it takes to get to a quality park or to see the doctor,” she said. “Our health is shaped by the places we live, work, learn and play in. We simply cannot afford to focus solely on the individual. The approach for a healthy and vibrant community needs to be innovative and inclusive of all community members.”
This is not the first time Fresno’s racial disparities have been called to task.
A report released earlier this month by the American Civil Liberties Union found that Fresno police officers fire their guns most often at black or Latino people. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer has refuted the findings of that investigation, pointing to a 2017 Fresno County Grand Jury report that provided “favorable” findings after assessing policies, procedures and training.
Incarcerations in Fresno County are also disproportionate by race. According to the most recent report from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, nearly 60 percent of inmates are Latino; 21 percent white and 15 percent black.
A report released last year by a national education nonprofit also labeled Fresno Unified and its surrounding school districts as among the most economically segregated in the country, based on the gap in incomes among neighborhoods.
Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission CEO Brian Angus said the Race Counts report highlights reasons why his organization offers everything from business loans to job training for Fresno’s “underserved” communities.
“We have seen the racial disparity in our community. It has been the driving force in where we operate and how we help our community,” he said.