Prolific Research Output by Ong Garners Media Coverage

Research Professor Paul Ong has shepherded myriad research studies amid COVID-19 on topics that relate to his role as director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, often in partnership with other UCLA research entities. A wide variety of media outlets have provided coverage:

  • Ong told that many immigrants and workers of color are not receiving unemployment benefits and will soon start to run out of money.
  • In a story about food insecurity by ABC News Radio, Ong said that Black and Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles have more barriers to sheltering in place, including lack of access to food and “huge disparities in terms of trying to manage or survive under COVID-19.”
  • Ong spoke about community investment in Echo Park with Curbed Los Angeles, drawing on his urban planning expertise to discuss community land trusts, which don’t exist to make a profit.
  • A Los Angeles Daily News story cited a study by Ong about the response rate to the 2020 U.S. Census. “We are critically behind,” he said. “Some groups such as low-income people, communities of color, renters and young children are at risk of being missed.

UCLA Research Guides Debate on Evictions and Homelessness

UCLA research on the looming threat of eviction and homelessness in Los Angeles County is guiding debate about how to safeguard residents as the region attempts to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown. Recent studies from the Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) and the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK), both housed at UCLA Luskin, have been cited by policymakers, civic leaders and advocacy groups. An II&D report authored by Gary Blasi, UCLA professor emeritus of law, estimated that tens of thousands of households in the county could fall into homelessness due to the pandemic. Blasi called for robust tenant protections, as well as urgent planning for temporary housing for those who lose their homes. His findings have been cited on the news and editorial pages of the Los Angeles Times, as well as on NPR, CalMatters, Streetsblog and Capital & Main. In response to the pandemic, the California court system in April put a hold on eviction proceedings statewide. Despite these protections, some Los Angeles landlords have sought to remove tenants by force or coercion, creating a “web of urban inequality,” according to Paul Ong, CNK director and author of a study on rent burdens that was cited by the Los Angeles Times. As the court considered lifting California’s eviction moratorium, advocacy groups such as Disability Rights California and the pro bono law firm Public Counsel lobbied against the move by presenting research from II&D and CNK, among other sources. The court subsequently delayed its review of the moratorium.

Racial, Class Disparities Found Amid Persistent Shortfall in 2020 Census Response A looming undercount puts the prospect of a complete and unbiased enumeration in doubt, according to a new report

By Les Dunseith

The national response rate to the U.S. Census continues to be well behind where it was at a similar point a decade ago, and the gap in self-responses is most evident in poor and minority communities, according to a new UCLA analysis of census data.

As of June 1, the nation’s 2020 census was approximately 6 percentage points behind the rate of response in 2010, according to co-author Paul Ong, a UCLA Luskin research professor and director of the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. Although this rate is better than the shortfall of over 12 percentage points found in an earlier study, Ong said it is unlikely that the overall gap can be closed completely.

“More troubling is that poor and minority communities are systematically and disproportionately affected by the problems with the self-response rates,” Ong wrote in the new report. “These neighborhoods experienced lower response rates in 2010 than more advantaged neighborhoods, and the gap widened in 2020.”

The difference is most apparent in Black and Latino neighborhoods, which have historically had lower rates of response than white neighborhoods. The 2020 response in Latino neighborhoods is down 15.2% points, according to the report.

The findings also show that the poorer the community, the lower the census response rate, and that divide has widened over the past decade. For the poorest neighborhoods, the self-response rates dropped from 56.3% in 2010 to 45.3% by 2020. Other adversely affected groups include families with young children, limited English speakers and non-citizens.

The researchers project that the undercount they see in the 2020 Census has put the prospect of a complete and unbiased enumeration in doubt. In turn, this threatens and undermines the goal of having fair political representation and just resource allocation.

The fact that reporting gaps coincide with neighborhoods most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic further complicates the situation, especially during the phase of the census that involves in-person counts by census takers.

“This association makes in-person interactions and follow-up interviews riskier and more costly than originally planned,” the report notes.

Rather than addressing the overall shortfall in the most cost-effective manner by targeting neighborhoods that are easiest to count, the authors advocate devoting the bureau’s limited resources instead to neighborhoods that are harder to reach.

“If we believe in a fair count, it is more important to address racial and class disparities,” the authors write. “Under these circumstances, priorities must be realigned so that scarce resources are laser-focused on safe, and proven, evidence-based actions with hard-to-count populations.”

One approach would involve partnering with community and faith-based organizations that could help persuade more of the “hard to count” to participate, the report says.

The analysis is based primarily on examining the 2010 and 2020 response rates for census tracts, which is a proxy for neighborhoods. Paul Ong also is a founder of Ong & Associates, an economic and policy analysis consulting firm specializing in public interest issues, which provided services pro bono for the study. It was co-authored by Jonathan Ong.

State’s Black, Latino Workers Less Likely to Be Covered by Unemployment Insurance Amid COVID-19 UCLA report recommends that California extend economic recovery funding to all workers

By Eliza Moreno

An analysis of unemployment in California at the height of the COVID-19 crisis shows that as many as 22% of Blacks and 26% of Latinos were jobless, compared to 17% of both white and Asian workers.

The new report, by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative and the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, is based not only on data from the filing of unemployment insurance claims, but also on labor statistics and U.S. Census data.

The paper examines the totality of the pandemic’s effect through mid-April on the California labor market by including estimates of the numbers of undocumented workers and so-called discouraged workers — people who want to be employed but are not actively engaged due to factors like job shortages, discrimination or a lack of requisite skills.

With state officials discussing a recovery package that will include adjustments to unemployment support, the UCLA report highlights the importance of including assistance for all types of workers, not just those who have filed unemployment claims. According to the study, roughly 1 million additional workers need assistance, and between 350,000 to 500,000 of them are undocumented.

“Many of the people facing devastating economic losses are in the shadows, and this report puts a figure to that loss so that policymakers understand where to focus their support as we move toward recovery,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

The report’s other key findings include:

  • More than 3 million workers in California have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than any other state.
  • More than 900,000 Californians have lost their jobs due to layoffs and have stopped looking for work as a result of the pandemic.
  • Over a quarter of Californians experiencing job loss were ineligible for unemployment insurance.
  • One-third of Californians who are receiving unemployment insurance are Latino.
  • Latinos are 59% of Californians who are ineligible for unemployment insurance.

“Economic recovery can only be achieved by understanding who is hurting the most from the pandemic-induced recession,” said Chhandara Pech, a researcher at the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and co-author of the paper. “Our report underscores that in the nation’s richest state, those at the bottom of the economic ladder need help the most.”

The report recommends that state policymakers expand the eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance, including for workers who may need to take time off to care for sick relatives. It also urges expansion of support to include health care and rental assistance, including for undocumented Californians.

The research brief is the fourth in a series of research papers examining the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. Previous papers in the series found that Asian-American and Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles County were most vulnerable due to the pandemic’s impact on the retail and service sectors, Latino neighborhoods were less likely to receive the individual rebate under the CARES Act, and many Blacks and Latinos live in neighborhoods that lack basic necessities during the county’s safer-at-home order.

The research is being conducted with assistance from Ong & Associates, an economic and policy analysis consulting firm specializing in public interest issues. Ong & Associates provided services pro bono for the study. Its founder is Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, which is housed in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Ong on Evictions and the Worsening Housing Crisis

Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fox 11 News about the impact of impending evictions on the housing crisis. A moratorium in Los Angeles prohibited landlords from evicting renters during the coronavirus pandemic, but many families fear they will lose their homes when the moratorium is lifted. The threat of eviction comes as widespread unemployment has pushed many households further into debt. After studying how the coronavirus crisis has affected different communities, Ong said that African American and Latino households in Los Angeles County are at high risk. “These are the same workers that … are on the financial edge,” he said. “By the end of the crisis, [they] will be deeply in debt.” 

CNK Makes COVID-19 Information Available Via Online Data Map

A new online map and data repository highlight research conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic by the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. The interactive visualization shows how different communities in Los Angeles County have been impacted by the health crisis. It draws on data and research conducted by UCLA Luskin Research Professor Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, working in partnership with Ong & Associates, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, and the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. It visualizes information from a series of recently distributed research briefs that show disadvantaged communities are facing greater risks of income insecurity, job displacement and other hardships because of the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus.

LPPI Study on Coronavirus Impact on Minorities Is Distributed to Associated Press Outlets

A recently published study by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) based at UCLA Luskin received media coverage by the Associated Press. The study found that 40% of black people and Latinos reside in neighborhoods where those living conditions make them more susceptible to getting infected or transmitting the coronavirus. “It just builds on the vulnerability of these residents and of these ethnic enclaves,” co-author Sonja Diaz says in the AP story, which was picked up by the websites of news outlets such as KTLA5 television in Los Angeles and the New York Times. The LPPI director goes on to say, “They’re least equipped to deal with this virus because now they live in neighborhoods where they can’t stay at home and practice physical distancing, they’re hardest hit economically and then they’re not getting relief and recovery benefits.”



Ong Comments on Slowing Population Growth in California

Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, was featured in a CalMatters article discussing California’s population growth as it slows to near-zero. After 170 years of steady growth, birth rates have started to decline and death rates are increasing. Additionally, foreign immigration is waning and more people are leaving California for other states. As the federal government conducts the decennial census, some experts worry that the poor, the nonwhite and the undocumented will be undercounted. A new UCLA study led by Ong found that the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County also tend to have the lowest census response rates and the highest rates of COVID-19 infection. “The only way to prevent an extreme undercount in some areas of the county would be for a horde of in-person census takers to descend on parts of the city with the greatest chance of coronavirus transmission,” Ong said in the study.

Ong Presses for Protections for Undocumented Farmworkers

Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the importance of coronavirus protections for undocumented farmworkers. Many of California’s farmworkers are undocumented, lack health insurance and don’t qualify for unemployment insurance or federal coronavirus relief. Ong said that undocumented farmworkers have been marginalized for decades through depressed wages and by being denied the safety net of programs such as unemployment insurance. A study by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that a majority of California voters support labor protections for farmworkers, such as paid sick leave, medical benefits and replacement wages if they contract the coronavirus. Ong said most Californians understand that farmworkers are critical in times of crisis. “At this time, they’re taking a huge risk by continuing to work so that the food chain is not broken,” he said.

Ong and Diaz on Supporting Latino and Asian Communities During COVID-19

Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, and Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, co-authored an opinion piece for NBC News about the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of color. Their research suggests that Latino and Asian neighborhoods will be most affected by the predicted loss of 1.6 million jobs in California by this summer. Furthermore, they argue that “Latino and Asian workers disproportionately rely on low-wage jobs where the most layoffs in the wake of COVID-19 are occurring.” They write that the CARES Act stimulus packages are not enough to protect these vulnerable households, especially undocumented immigrants and service workers who hold multiple part-time jobs. Ong and Diaz recommended that states create “recovery programs focused on those who are highest at risk of not receiving federal COVID-19 relief” so that no one is left out of the recovery.