Policy Matters is a quarterly series of reports that provide timely research and guidance on issues that are of concern to policymakers at the local, state, and national levels.

Volume 2, Issue 1 by Karthick Ramakrishnan, Dino Bozonelos, Louise Hendrickson, and Tom Wong is entitled: Inland Gaps: Civic Inequalities in a High Growth Region.


Executive Summary

In recent years, there have been increasing concerns about levels of civic engagement in the United States and disparities in participation among members of different racial and ethnic groups. These civic inequalities take on great importance in states such as California, where no racial or ethnic group can claim majority status. In this report, we examine civic engagement in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, which encompasses the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino. We base our analysis on focus groups, surveys of residents, and interviews with elected officials and community organization leaders.

While civic life in the Inland Empire is vibrant and diverse in many ways, there are also considerable civic inequalities, at both the individual and organizational levels. Latinos and Asian Americans lag in participation behind African Americans and whites on a host of activities, ranging from voting to writing elected officials and attending public hearings. They also have lower levels of civic volunteerism, which in turn may perpetuate their disadvantages in local politics. We also find significant resource disparities between mainstream and ethnic organizations, as well as in their political presence: While public officials pay attention to a handful of Latino and African American organizations, they are largely unaware of the larger array of community organizations serving nonwhite residents. We conclude our analysis with some suggestions for local governments, foundations, and mainstream community organizations to reduce civic inequalities along racial and ethnic lines.

Karthick Ramakrishnan is assistant professor of political science at the University of Cali- fornia, Riverside. His research interests include political participation, civic voluntarism, and the politics of race, ethnicity, and immigration in the United States. He is the author of Democ- racy in Immigrant America (2005) and is co-editor of Transforming Politics, Transforming America (2006). He has a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University and is an adjunct fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Dino Bozonelos, Louise Hendrickson, and Tom Wong are Ph.D. candidates in political science at UC Riverside. This research was supported by a grant from the James Irvine Foun- dation. The authors bear sole responsibility for any errors.