UCLA’s sixth annual Quality of Life Index, which was released Monday, found a growing number of Los Angeles County residents between 18 and 49 believe the area’s cost of living threatens their ability to make ends meet, get ahead or gain financial security.
The index found that young residents reported having a lower quality of life than older residents, and researchers think the pandemic may have exacerbated that disparity.
“The varied manifestations of COVID-19 fell most heavily on the shoulders of younger county residents,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, who oversees the Quality of Life Index.
Yaroslavsky’s team interviewed 1,434 L.A. County residents of various ages over a 20-day period that began on March 3, as the nation’s vaccination program was speeding up and fueling people’s optimism about a return to normal life. Researchers found that while Latino residents face harder challenges living in the region, they have a more positive outlook on their well-being that white residents, and this disparity is particularly pronounced among younger residents.
“Repeatedly, younger Latinos are more positive about their own conditions and express greater approval and positivity toward the variety of public officials and governmental entities that affect their lives,” said Paul Maslin, a public opinion and polling expert with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates who has overseen the Quality of Life survey process since 2016. “Among younger white residents in Los Angeles County, a greater sense of frustration and even bitterness is apparent.”
Specifically, researchers found differences between the two groups’ views of the COVID-19 pandemic, public officials and opportunities in the L.A. County area:
— about 48% of young white residents reported that they believed the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was fair to them, while 65% of young Latino residents reported feeling the handling of the pandemic was fair to them;
— about 68% of young white residents believed the region is where rich people get richer and the average person can’t get ahead, while only 55% of young Latinos reported this sentiment;
— young Latino residents reported higher rates of favorable views of Gov. Gavin Newsom, at 53%, while 62% of young white residents reported unfavorable views of Newsom; and
— only about a third of young white residents said they approved of the response the federal, state and county governments had to the COVID-19 pandemic, while young Latinos showed approval at least 20 points higher.
Despite the more favorable outlook, a higher number of Latinos, 43%, reported falling behind on their rent, while only 31% of white residents said they were falling behind. Overall, the study found what many Los Angeles County residents have already observed: the county’s residents have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with adverse affects on people’s finances, health and children’s education.
“A year ago we speculated about how resilient our region would be in the year to follow,” Yaroslavsky said.
“We now know that Los Angeles County has demonstrated robust resilience, but a significant toll has been exacted on our residents by the tumultuous events. Many of our residents — especially younger ones — are anxious, angry and steadily losing hope about their future in Los Angeles.”
Of the people interviewed:
— 54% reported either they or a close family member or friend tested positive for COVID-19;
— 40% reported that their income decreased due to the pandemic, and 22% said it decreased “a lot,” while 18% reported “some” decline;
— 18% reported they lost their job at some point during the pandemic; and
— 76% of parents who have school-age children said they felt their children had been “substantially hurt, either academically or socially” by distance learning and quarantine during the pandemic.
The survey also found about 17% of people who suffered a significant decrease in income also reported that they suffered at least two specific negative impacts, such as job loss, wage or salary reduction, decline in work hours or difficulty paying rent or mortgage. That group was disproportionately made up of women under 50, single people, renters, people without college degrees and people with household incomes of less than $60,000.
Yaroslavsky called that group “among the most vulnerable individuals living in our county.”
The Quality of Life Index in the county remained at 58, the same as last year, which researchers said reflected resilience among the county’s residents. However, the satisfaction rating of people with children in public schools dropped from 58 to 52, which was one of the most dramatic one-year declines in any category in the index’s six-year history. Additionally, satisfaction ratings in the public safety category fell from 64 to 60, which was influenced by the public’s concern about violent crime. The rating for quality of respondents’ neighborhoods also dropped from 71 to 68.
However, residents reported an increase in satisfaction with transportation in traffic, with the rating going from 53 to 56, which Yaroslavsky’s team attributed to the decrease in traffic due to workplace shutdowns. Fifty-seven percent of employed responders said they were working from home or split time between remote work and office work, and 77% said they would prefer a mix of working from home and at their workplace after the pandemic. Sixteen percent of people said they almost always wanted to work from home.