Opinions About Quality of Life in L.A. Vary Sharply Across Generations Annual UCLA survey finds less optimism among young and economically stressed residents

By Les Dunseith

Residents felt slightly better than last year about life in Los Angeles County, according to UCLA’s fifth annual Quality of Life Index, which was conducted just as the coronavirus crisis descended on the region last month. Ratings increased in all categories, with the exception of the two most directly affected by the pandemic — health, and jobs and the economy.

The overall quality-of-life rating rose from 56 to 58 (on a scale of 10 to 100) in the survey, released April 23 by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Responses varied dramatically by age and household income, however. The survey took place between March 18 and 26, which coincided with the implementation of strict social distancing measures in the county and state.

“The slight increase in county residents’ satisfaction may be more of a reflection of the past year’s quality of life than of the new reality with which we have all been living for the last six weeks,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. “Since then, we have been in uncharted territory, which we will be able to better measure in the months ahead.”

The onset of the COVID-19 crisis may have contributed to a sharp increase in how important health was to respondents when compared with the other survey categories. Sixty-five percent said health was of high importance in rating their quality of life, an 8% increase over the 2019 survey. This was second in importance only to the cost-of-living category, which has been the most salient category of the Quality of Life Index, or QLI, since its inception in 2016.

A telling takeaway from this year’s survey is a growing generational and economic divide among county residents. Respondents were asked whether Los Angeles is a place where people who work hard can get ahead. While 41% answered yes, a majority of 55% said no. That pessimistic outlook was held by 64% of those between the ages of 18 and 39 and 62% of those living in households with annual incomes of less than $60,000.

Housing and the fear of homelessness also remain priority issues for county residents. When asked whether they are worried about losing their home and becoming homeless as a result, 31% of respondents answered yes, an increase of 9% over last year. Thirty-nine percent of those between the ages of 18 and 39 and 48% of those with household incomes of less than $60,000 said they were worried.

“The notion that nearly 2 out of 3 younger and lower-income earners increasingly believe they are at an economic dead-end is a most distressing finding in our survey,” Yaroslavsky said. “When nearly 4 out of 10 young and economically stressed Angelenos go to bed each night worrying about becoming homeless, we are all diminished. This is a troubling trend that continues to plague our society.”

The QLI is a joint project of the UCLA Luskin Los Angeles Initiative and The California Endowment. Researchers ask a cross-section of Los Angeles County residents to rate their quality of life in nine categories and 40 subcategories. Full results are being released April 23 as part of UCLA’s Luskin Summit, which is being held virtually this year because of the ongoing health crisis. The host of that session is Adrienne Alpert of ABC7 in Los Angeles, where she is a reporter and host of a public affairs program, “Eyewitness Newsmakers.”

As in previous years, the 2020 QLI’s categories fell into three distinct tiers in terms of respondents’ level of satisfaction: a bottom tier including cost of living (45), education (50) and transportation and traffic (53); a middle tier including the environment (58), jobs and the economy (59), and public safety (64); and a top tier including health care (69), race relations (71) and neighborhood quality (71).

Overall satisfaction with quality of life rose across all age groups in the 2020 survey. Those aged 40 to 49 matched the index’s average score of 58, but those aged 39 and younger gave a rating of 54. Those older than 50 gave a 61 rating, a significant increase over last year. Older respondents are generally more satisfied with their financial security in retirement, while younger residents are less secure and more concerned.

Other key findings

  • The results of questions directly related to the coronavirus were released publicly on April 8. County residents expressed high concern over the virus’s impact on their health (79%) and economic situation (82%). In addition, 61% gave local public health officials high marks for their response to the pandemic, compared with 39% for federal officials.
  • Almost two-thirds of people surveyed (63%) favor building housing in their neighborhoods to help transition people out of homelessness, as long as the housing includes access to medical and social services and has on-site security.
  • Sixty-two percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. A majority of respondents (53%) had a favorable opinion of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, but less than one-third (31%) had a favorable view of Sheriff Alex Villanueva, while 34% said they had no opinion and 13% had never heard of Villanueva.
  • Roughly 4 in 5 respondents (79%) expressed satisfaction with race relations in the county, and this strongly positive opinion was reflected across all demographic groups in the survey: Latinos (80%), whites (81%), Asians (77%) and African Americans (77%).

“One year from now, we will be living in a different world,” Yaroslavsky said. “In the past, Los Angeles has faced and overcome great challenges, but we are now in the midst of a crisis we could have never imagined. Next year, we will certainly know more about the extent of our region’s resilience.”

The 2020 UCLA Luskin Quality of Life Index is based on interviews with a random sample of 1,503 county residents conducted in both English and Spanish, with a margin of error of ­­plus or minus 2.5%. The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

 

View a PowerPoint presentation about the 2020 L.A. County Quality of Life Index

 

View additional information about this year’s study and previous studies housed at the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies

Yaroslavsky on Tensions Between L.A. County Supervisors and Sheriff

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was the guest speaker on the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy’s inaugural podcast “Then & Now.” Yaroslavsky, a former five-term member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, commented in the first episode, “Of Supervisors and Sheriffs: Who’s Running LA County’s Emergency Operations?” It focused on current and past relationships between board members and the county sheriff. “There is this ambiguity or conflict — however you want to look at it — structurally, as a rule, looking at Los Angeles County,” Yaroslavsky said. “Those are the typical disputes that you have, but they get resolved.” Host David Myers, professor of history and director of the Center for History and Policy, noted that L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was removed as head of the county’s Emergency Operations Center in March. He asked whether brewing tensions “could have consequences for the county’s ability to respond to the crisis at hand,” referring to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. “All units of the county are at their best in a time of crisis,” Yaroslavsky responded. He added that disputes between supervisors and the sheriff are not uncommon but added that he did not recall a conflict that questioned the fundamental authority of the board “or tried to go around the board of supervisors in implementing policies that were corrupt or illegal, as the case has been. And that’s where the current situation differs.”

Anxiety About Coronavirus Is Widespread in L.A. County Roughly 4 in 5 residents in new UCLA Luskin survey express deep concern about the health and economic impacts of COVID-19

By Les Dunseith

An overwhelming percentage (78%) of Los Angeles County residents say they are concerned that they or a member of their family will contract the novel coronavirus, according to a survey conducted between March 18 and 26 and released today by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

A solid majority (61%) of respondents expressed confidence in the response by local officials to the pandemic, but only 39% had similar confidence in the federal response.

“There are two clear takeaways,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, which conducted the survey as part of an annual project known as the Quality of Life Index, or QLI. “The anxiety levels over contracting the virus and its economic impacts are overwhelming. And it’s a vote of confidence in the local public health agencies, while a vote of no confidence in the federal response.”

The results are based on interviews conducted with about 1,500  county residents during a period that happened to coincide with the implementation of stay-at-home orders in Los Angeles.

The QLI, which is a joint project of the UCLA Luskin Los Angeles Initiative and The California Endowment, is in its fifth year. Researchers poll a cross-section of Los Angeles County residents each year to understand the public’s perception of the quality of their own lives. Full results will be released April 23 as part of a UCLA event known as the Luskin Summit, which will be held virtually this year because of the ongoing health crisis. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6%.

Respondents indicated that they were very concerned (49%), somewhat concerned (29%), not too concerned (13%) or not concerned at all (7%) that they or a member of their family would contract the novel coronavirus. Women over the age of 50 expressed the greatest concern (62% were very concerned).

When asked whether the health crisis had or will have a negative economic impact on themselves personally, more than four out of five respondents (83%) said they were concerned, with 56% saying very concerned and 27% saying somewhat concerned. Again, women expressed the most concern, although in this case it was slightly higher among women aged 18 to 49 (61%) than among women aged 50 to 64 (60%).

Two questions were asked about the response of public health and government officials to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the results were almost mirror opposites. When asked if they were confident in the response of officials in Los Angeles County, 61% of respondents said yes and 31% said no, but just 39% said yes and 55% said no when asked if they were confident in the response of officials in the federal government. These results were generally consistent among demographic and geographic groups.

“In virtually no major demographic group did we find less than a majority expressing confidence in local officials,” Yaroslavsky said.

Some of the highest marks for local officials came from those aged 50 to 74 (69%), men aged 50 to 64 (72%) and women 65 and older (70%), as well as Latinos over age 50 (70%). Residents in every L.A. County supervisorial district expressed at least 59% confidence as a whole.

Hardly any major demographic group expressed majority confidence in the federal response. The lowest confidence levels came from 18-to-39-year-olds (33%), African Americans (32%), women aged 18 to 49 (31%), those with annual incomes above $120,000 (30%), whites aged 18 to 49 (23%) and residents of the 3rd Supervisorial District (28%), which encompasses Westside communities such as Santa Monica and Malibu, plus the north and western sections of the San Fernando Valley.

The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

Yaroslavsky Breaks Down Super Tuesday Wins and Losses

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, joined KCAL9 News as nationwide returns from Super Tuesday came in. The evening’s big surprise was the campaign comeback of former Vice President Joe Biden, said Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant and political analyst. “This sudden change, this reversal of fortune at the presidential candidate level, is unprecedented,” he said, especially since the Biden campaign has been relatively low-budget. “As a politician, I used to dream of being able to win elections without spending a nickel. Biden did it nationally,” he said. But he cautioned, “Let’s not write off Bernie Sanders and consign him to the graveyard. Things, as we’ve seen in the last 72 hours, can change very quickly.” Yaroslavsky also said former President Barack Obama is wise to hold off on endorsing a candidate, as he may need to unite the Democratic Party in the event of a brokered convention. And he said Los Angeles County must overcome problems with its new balloting procedures before November. Otherwise, he said, “Democracy loses, because if people have to stand in line for two, three hours, it’s going to discourage people.”


 

Yaroslavsky on the Last Debate Before Super Tuesday

With Super Tuesday a week away, Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, weighed in on the latest Democratic candidates’ debate in an in-studio appearance on KCAL9 News. “They came after Bernie tonight. He is the front-runner so they tried to knock him down a peg. I don’t think they drew much blood,” he said of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s debate performance was strong ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina primary, Yaroslavsky said. “If he wins, he’s got a second wind. If he doesn’t, he’s got some decisions to make,” he said. The debate, which included exchanges on coronavirus and Fidel Castro’s Cuba, often grew raucous as candidates tried to gain advantage. Yaroslavsky said the Democrats would be wiser to direct their attacks on the incumbent president. “Democrats have a way, after the nominating process is over, of coming together, but for tonight it didn’t look good for the Democrats,” he said.


 

Yaroslavsky on Building L.A.’s Future With Lessons From Its Past


Yaroslavsky on the Tight Race for the Democratic Nomination

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KCAL9 News following the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Yaroslavsky observed that the fireworks that some had expected between Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did not materialize. “Neither one of them had an interest in beating up on the other,” he said, noting that some candidates who had previously launched personal attacks are no longer on the debate stage. The six who did qualify — former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, businessman Tom Steyer, Sanders and Warren — debated foreign policy, healthcare and trade. Yaroslavsky predicted that no clear winner will emerge from the Iowa caucuses, less than three weeks away, or perhaps even from subsequent voting in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. “It’s a very close race,” he said.


 

Yaroslavsky on Democrats’ L.A. Debate

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, assessed the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Los Angeles in an in-studio appearance on KCAL9 News. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had “more of an opportunity to display her capabilities on the stage, and I thought she did extremely well,” Yaroslavsky said. “She had the most to gain by having this kind of a night.” Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, held his own in a sparring match with Sen. Elizabeth Warren over campaign contributions from wealthy donors. And “Andrew Yang is still somebody who’s connecting with people, though it’s not showing up in the polls,” Yaroslavsky said. He also said former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading national polls but lagging in Iowa, had a strong showing. “What he needed tonight was to stop the erosion and create a sense of ascendancy, and I think he may have started that process tonight,” Yaroslavsky said.


 

Yaroslavsky Offers Insights on Democratic Debate

KCAL9 News spoke with Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, following the fifth debate of Democratic presidential candidates. Yaroslavsky commented on the prominence of women’s issues during the forum, noting that in addition to the four female candidates on stage, all four moderators were women. “It was a change. You don’t see that many questions and answers on women’s issues in a typical debate,” he said. “In a Democratic primary, women have a disproportionately high percentage of the vote,” Yaroslavsky said. “African American women are a significant percentage of the African American vote and of the Democratic primary vote. So it was both a meritorious set of questions and also a politically significant set of questions.” Yaroslavsky’s tenure as a public official and civic leader in Southern California spans more than four decades.


 

Making the Most of the Student-Mentor Connection Annual Senior Fellows Leadership breakfast puts spotlight on a successful partnership

By Mary Braswell

A student and mentor brought together by UCLA Luskin’s Senior Fellows Leadership Program shared stories of their rewarding yearlong partnership at an Oct. 24 breakfast launching the initiative’s 23rd year.

The gathering at the UCLA Faculty Center gave this year’s class of 45 Senior Fellows a chance to meet the graduate students they were matched with and hear insights from Tom Epstein, president of the California Community Colleges board of governors, and Irma Castañeda, a second-year master of public policy student.

“The best thing about being a fellow here is you get to work with so many smart, conscientious and diverse students,” said Epstein, a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow since 2015.

Castañeda said she applied for the program last year to broaden her understanding of career options in the public policy field.  She accomplished that and much more, she said.

“I’m a first-generation college student and a first-generation professional, and I was navigating this space as a new student,” she said. By the end of the year, Epstein had helped her to build a professional network in Los Angeles and Sacramento and land a summer internship tailored to her interests in higher education.

At their monthly check-ins, Epstein and Castañeda talked about classes, career goals, internships and job prospects. Epstein also provided email introductions to key figures in his field and invited Castañeda to a meeting and dinner of California Community Colleges governors.

The life of a graduate student can be filled with coursework, campus activities and outside jobs, Castañeda said, but “it’s really important to prioritize this experience.” The Senior Fellows Program offers a rare gift — sustained one-on-one access to a leader in the public, private or nonprofit sector — and students should make the most of it, she said.

She also encouraged her classmates to take full advantage of the resources offered by UCLA Luskin’s Career Services team, led by Executive Director VC Powe.

View more photos from the Senior Fellows breakfast on Flickr.

The first step, Castañeda said, is to ask questions — lots of them.

She learned this during her search for a summer internship that would help her learn more about the community college system. Finding none, she consulted career counselor Donna Lee Oda, who helped her edit her resume, craft a cover letter and pitch herself as a summer intern candidate.

Epstein connected her with the deputy chancellor of California Community Colleges, who created a research internship just for Castañeda. She spent the summer conducting analysis for the governmental relations division and presenting her findings at a legislative briefing at the state Capitol.

“It was something that I wouldn’t have imagined, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity if I hadn’t asked,” she said.

Epstein said he is grateful for the chance to serve as a Senior Fellow, recalling that an internship while he was at UCLA Law launched a rewarding career. He thanked his own mentor, Zev Yaroslavsky — then a young city councilman and now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin — who was present at the breakfast.

Epstein’s career journey took him through politics, healthcare, insurance, media and the environment, in addition to higher education. He has worked in the White House, state government and the private and nonprofit sectors.

Students mentored by Epstein through the Senior Fellows program are now working at the California Endowment, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the California Department of Finance, Green Dot Schools and L.A. Care. One is a doctor with Kaiser Permanente and another is a teaching assistant at UCLA, he said.

Epstein addressed the public policy, social welfare and urban planning students gathered at the breakfast. “I’m grateful for your commitment to public service,” he said, “because our country needs you.”

This year, 37 returning Senior Fellows were joined by eight new mentors:

Warren T. Allen MPP ’03, founding member and attorney with WTAII PLLC

Nahtahna Cabanes MSW ’13, vice president of strategic partnerships with L.A. Works

Ken Chawkins BA ’85, business policy manager with the Southern California Gas Company

Elizabeth Forer CEO, Venice Family Clinic

Louise McCarthy MPP ’04, president and CEO at Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County

Aurea Montes-Rodriguez MSW ’99, BA ’97, executive vice president of Community Coalition

Sarah Smith, senior director of education for the International Rescue Committee

Nancy Sutley, chief development officer with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power