Affordable Housing, Opportunity Gap for Latino Students, and Children’s Health Trends Identified as Critical Issues Impacting County’s Future Economic Growth

The 17th Annual Orange County Community Indicators Report Highlights Economic Trends and Brings Urgent Issues to Light

An annual report released today identified persistent poverty and educational disadvantages among Orange County’s Latino population as one of three major countywide issues that require urgent attention. Affordable housing and children’s mental health and rising obesity rates were also identified as critically important “pivot points” in the 2016 Orange County Community Indicators Report, a comprehensive measure of the health and wellbeing of Orange County’s people, community and economy.

The report, now in its 17th year, covers all areas of the county’s health, economic conditions and quality of life, including income and housing, education, public safety, environment and healthcare. It is co-produced by the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, United Way, CalOptima and the Orange County Community Foundation. The organizations involved in guiding and funding the report have expanded this year to include PIMCO Foundation, Orange County Department of Education, Hope through Housing Foundation, Orange County Funders Roundtable and Orange County Transportation Authority.

“The Community Indicators Report identifies key issues that impact the future success and prosperity of our children and county,” said Maria Minon, M.D., chair of the Children and Families Commission of Orange County. “The report is the bellwether for urgent issues in housing, education and health. It is critically important that our community works together to find creative, effective solutions to ensure positive outcomes for a vital, thriving county.”

Pivot Point: Opportunity Gap for Orange County’s Latino Students

Among Orange County’s diverse population, Latino residents are most impacted by poverty and lower educational attainment, according to the Community Indicators Report. Latino residents age 25 and older represent the lowest proportion of college graduates and the highest proportion of high school dropouts.

“This reality has obvious personal costs, and it could have increasing impacts on Orange County’s overall wellbeing as the Latino population continues to grow, “ said Al Mijares, Ph.D., Orange County Superintendent of Schools. “Today, 49 percent of all public school students for the 2014-15 school year are Latino, up from 44 percent in 2005-06.”

Trends show that wages continue to decrease for lower paid occupations, which translates to increased financial constraints for high school dropouts. Low and declining wages further contribute to poverty levels in Orange County where the cost of living is an estimated 85 percent more than the national average.

The report noted that education is a strong protective factor against poverty and educational attainment is a key strategy to give children – and the communities in which they live – a strong foundation for a prosperous future.

Pivot Point: Affordable Housing Solutions

The Community Indicators Report found that even while jobs in Orange County continue to grow, the four largest employment sectors tracked — Construction, Tourism, Business and Professional Services, and Health Services — do not have annual salaries high enough to qualify for an entry-level home in Orange County. In terms of renting, only about one-third of Orange County jobs offer median wages high enough to afford a one-bedroom rental unit.

Moreover, new housing construction is not keeping pace with the growing number of jobs. The housing that is being built is not affordable to residents with lower incomes – a mere 5 percent of new construction in 2014 was in the “low” or “very low” income categories.

This imbalance is evidenced by younger adults and families moving out of the county, businesses unable to find workers to fill open positions, and individuals and families living in crowded or poverty conditions.

“The Community Indicators Report gives us important information which helps guide our work and investments in the community,” said Max Gardner, President and CEO, Orange County United Way. “This year’s housing data as it relates to affordable housing, reinforces the critical nature of the goals in our FACE 2024 10-year communitywide action plan.”

Pivot Point: Childhood Mental Illness and Obesity Coordination and Prevention

In an alarming health trend, the Community Indicators Report noted that as of 2014/15, one-third (32.8 percent) of Orange County children were overweight or obese. In some areas of the county, the childhood obesity rate has climbed to more than half. The long-term trend among adults shows increasing rates of obesity-related chronic diseases, diabetes and heart disease. The mental health outlook is equally alarming, the report found: The hospitalization rate for major depression among children and youth continues to rise, increasing 39 percent since 2003. Meanwhile, the suicide rate for youth and young adults rose by 26 percent during this period. Orange County ranks 39th out of 58 California counties in availability of mental health providers.

Minon and others involved in the annual report stressed the importance of expanding multi-agency coordination and outreach.

“Coordination and prevention on a major scale are absolutely vital to reversing these trends,” said Sarah Middleton, Executive Director of the PIMCO Foundation. “If we can work together to reduce duplication, identify gaps and maintain children’s health and well being from a younger age, we can reduce the amount of lost work hours. If our workforce is healthy and our workforces’ kids are healthy, the greater community will benefit tremendously.”

“One purpose of the Community Indicators Report is to provide valuable information on major trends impacting the health of our community,” said Michael Schrader, CEO of CalOptima. “As the community health plan for Orange County, CalOptima is dedicated to participating in collaborative efforts to improve the overall wellbeing of our children and families.”

Beyond the three pivot points, new to this year’s report are two additional education indicators – kindergarten readiness data and an analysis of high school student participation in STEM coursework. After a hiatus, academic performance indicators are back, showing how Orange County students are performing in math and reading, according to the newly implemented Common Core State Standards.

The 2016 health indicators showed a surge in community clinic use and enrollment in public insurance, as the Affordable Care Act reached full implementation in the county.

For more information about the 2016 Community Indicators Report or to request a copy, please contact Lisa Burke at lisa@lisajburke.com. You can also view the full report on the Children and Families Commission of Orange County’s website here: http://occhildrenandfamilies.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/OCCIR_2016_WebRev.pdf.


About The Community Indicators Report
Released annually since 2000, the Community Indicators Report tracks a range of topics important to the county’s health and prosperity. It highlights areas in which the county is performing well and making progress, as well as those where improvement is needed and where community efforts may positively influence Orange County’s future. The data compiled allows stakeholders to ask whether a certain practice or trend is sustainable and helps guide policy makers in fostering and maintaining Orange County’s vitality.