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Prosperity eludes Latinos, survey finds

November 16, 1999

IRVINE, Calif. - Orange County residents see their glass more than half full and their cup running over into the millennium, according to UC Irvine's 1999 Orange County Annual Survey. However, full participation in the county's economic and civic life continues to elude the county's fast-growing Latino population.

E-Mail Received 11/16/99 by VCT Webmaster

Dear American Patrol,

I do a lot of driving in my job and today ,11/15/99, I made a stop in the 400 block of 4th street in the heart of Santa Ana. A giant complex called the Spectrum condominiums was the complex where I had an appointment to see my customer. In reviewing the marquee here I was dumbstruck by the huge list of 450 names listed as residents. In reviewing carefully all 450 names listed only two were not Spanish surnames. Is immigration of the sweep and scope we are experiencing bringing true diversity or just an AZTLAN takeover?

[Name withheld by VCT]

Note: Santa Ana is in the heart of Orange County, is the county seat, and is full of illegal aliens.

Quality-of-life ratings reached an all-time high among all ethnic groups, with 92 percent saying things are going very or somewhat well in the county and 78 percent saying the county economy is excellent or good.

Latinos are even more optimistic than the county as a whole: 56 percent say the county will be a better place to live in the future, compared with 33 percent of non-Hispanic whites. In addition, 58 percent of Latinos say they are better off now than last year, compared with 55 percent in the county as a whole, and 61 percent of Latinos expect to be better off next year, compared with 51 percent in the county as a whole.

"Latinos are upbeat about economic conditions and the quality of life in Orange County, but they lag behind non-Hispanic whites on several key indicators of economic well-being and political involvement," said Mark Baldassare, UCI professor of urban and regional planning, who conducted the survey with research associate Cheryl Katz.

Latinos are less likely to own homes - only 36 percent own their homes, compared with 72 percent of non-Hispanic whites - and more concerned about crime. Also less likely to vote or volunteer, they are not highly engaged in the county's community and political life.

The 18th Orange County Annual Survey of residents' views on housing, education, quality of life and other issues was conducted by phone from Sept. 1 to 13, using a computer-generated random sample of telephone numbers. Interviews of 1,000 randomly selected adult household members were conducted in English and Spanish. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

While Orange County residents' attitudes are very positive overall, the following findings indicate significant differences in the situations of Latinos and non-Hispanic whites:

- Latinos are more concerned about crime

- 47 percent of Latinos cite it as the county's number one problem, while non-Hispanic whites are evenly divided between crime (21 percent) and schools (20 percent).

- Latinos are more trusting of federal government - 41 percent say you can trust the federal government always or most of the time to do what is right, compared with 25 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

- But Latinos are less likely to vote in every election - 18 percent, compared with 59 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Latinos also are less interested in public affairs - 17 percent follow public affairs most of the time, compared with 45 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

- Latinos are less likely to volunteer - only eight percent say they are highly involved in volunteer work, compared with 21 percent of non-Hispanic whites. And they are less likely to be highly involved in religious activities (14 percent to 25 percent of non-Hispanic whites).

- While television is the main source of local news for all ethnic groups, even fewer Latinos (21 percent) read a local newspaper every day than do non-Hispanic whites (56 percent).

UCI's Orange County Annual Survey is the most comprehensive study of the political, social and economic attitudes of Orange County residents. Baldassare, the Roger W. and Janice M. Johnson Endowed Chair in Civic Governance and Public Management in UCI's School of Social Ecology, has conducted the survey since 1982. The survey will be available on the World Wide Web at www.communications.uci.edu.