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March 21, 2020

In an opinion piece that was published today on CNN.com, UCLA sociology professors, Dr. Cecilia Menjívar, Dr. Jacob G. Foster, and Dr. Jennie E. Brand, recommend using the more accurate term “physical distancing” rather than the misleading term “social distancing” during the COVID-19 pandemic. They write: “In fact, when we practice physical distancing, we need social connectivity and social responsibility more than ever.” To read this informative piece titled, “Don’t Call It ‘Social Distancing,'” click HERE.

February 27, 2020 — A new report released today by the California Policy Lab at UCLA sheds light on the employment histories of people before, during, and after receiving homelessness services in Los Angeles. By studying enrollment and wages data for more than 130,000 homeless service clients, the authors found that a majority of people (74%) who experienced homelessness in Los Angeles had some work history in California, and that more than one-third (37%) were working in the two years prior to becoming homeless. Only about one in five (19%) were working in the calendar quarter they became homeless, and their annual wages were very low. Their average annual earnings were only $9,970, which is 16% of the Area Median Income for Los Angeles.

“There’s often an assumption that people experiencing homelessness are not working,” explained Till von Wachter, a UCLA economic professor, co-author of the report, and faculty director of the California Policy Lab at UCLA. “While it’s true that some individuals in our study had not worked in a long time, a substantial number – close to half – were working within four years before entering homelessness. These recent workers had a higher likelihood of returning to work after receiving services and their average wages were also higher. The results from our study on who is most likely to work after enrolling for homeless services can be used to tailor workforce programs to encourage employment and raise earnings of homeless service clients.”

The researchers had three additional main findings:

  • There are predictable differences in employment rates after service enrollment. Those with recent employment and younger individuals had substantially higher levels of employment after receiving services. To a lesser degree, adults in families, and individuals without mental and physical health issues had also higher employment rates as compared to the entire sample. These differences can be used to better target reemployment services to those most likely to find gainful employment.
  • For some groups, employment rates improved at the same time that they enrolled to receive homeless services, although this is not necessarily a causal relationship. Individuals who worked in the four years prior to experiencing homelessness had substantial reductions in their employment rates prior to becoming homeless (dropping from 46% two years before enrolling to 33% in the quarter before enrolling). However, for some recent workers, their employment rates increased after enrolling, for example, the employment rate for adults in families increased from 39% to 44%. Individuals in transitional housing and people who came from stable housing also saw increases in employment rates after enrolling in services.
  • Most individuals work in just a few industries: 65% of people who were employed worked in one of four industries prior to enrolling to receive services, and those that found employment after enrollment were typically concentrated in those industries. This has implications for job training and placement programs that are intended to support people either to prevent homelessness or to help people as they transition out of homelessness.

Additional research findings

  • 86% of adults in families were employed at some point prior to service enrollment as compared to 75% for single adults, and 61% for transition aged youth aged 18-24.
  • 47% of people were working in the four years prior to becoming homeless, and 37% were employed within two years of their homeless spell. On average, people had worked in two of the four quarters before service enrollment.
  • There are 12 categories of homelessness support services. People enrolled in homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing projects had the highest rates of employment in the two years before enrollment, at 67% and 56%, respectively.
  • 72% of people who reported mental health issues at enrollment had worked previously, 76% reporting substance abuse concerns had worked previously, and 72% reporting physical disabilities had worked previously.
  • In the year before enrolling for services, 24% of individuals who reported substance abuse concerns had worked in the year prior to enrolling along with 20% who reported mental health issues and 17% who reported physical disabilities. This compares to an overall sample average of 29% of individuals who were employed in the year prior to enrollment.
  • Individuals coming from stable housing prior to enrolling in services had higher quarterly employment rates and experienced more of an employment recovery after enrolling for services as compared to people who had been homeless for three months or more at the time of service enrollment.
  • Recent workers (defined as having worked three or four years before service enrollment) had higher quarterly earnings in the quarter of service enrollment (22% more than the full sample) and had higher annual earnings in the second year after service enrollment ($13,311 for the full sample versus $15,880 for recent workers).

Methodology

The research team linked enrollment data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) from the time period of 2010 to 2018 for individuals aged 18 to 70 at the time of enrollment to state employment records from the California Employment Development Department for the time period from 1995 to 2018. The analysis was then performed on de-identified data. The full sample size was 136,726 individuals. For more details, read the report, or the accompanying technical appendix.  Download the report, HERE.

Additional Background and future research

While this report provides a baseline understanding of employment rates among people receiving homeless services in Los Angeles, the authors caution that more research is needed to develop specific policy recommendations. Future research should look at whether job loss is the direct cause of homelessness and for whom, and how workforce and training programs could either prevent homelessness or speed up exits from homelessness. This report did not include data on income supports from programs like Supplemental Security Income, General Relief, CalWORKs, or CalFRESH that would help to better understand the income situation of homeless service clients.

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The California Policy Lab

The California Policy Lab creates data-driven insights for the public good. Our mission is to partner with California’s state and local governments to generate scientific evidence that solves California’s most urgent problems, including homelessness, poverty, crime, and education inequality. We facilitate close working partnerships between policymakers and researchers at the University of California to help evaluate and improve public programs through empirical research and technical assistance.

Contact:
Sean Coffey: sean@capolicylab.org

(919) 428-1143

The Bedari Foundation, established by philanthropists Jennifer and Matthew C. Harris, has given $20 million to the UCLA College to establish the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute.

The institute, which is housed in the division of social sciences, will support world-class research on kindness, create opportunities to translate that research into real-world practices, and serve as a global platform to educate and communicate its findings. Among its principal goals are to empower citizens and inspire leaders to build more humane societies.

“In the midst of current world politics, violence and strife, the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute seeks to be an antidote,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of the UCLA division of social sciences. “Rooted in serious academic work, the institute will partner and share its research on kindness broadly in accessible formats. The Bedari Foundation’s extraordinary gift is truly visionary and we are grateful for its support and leadership.”

“The mission of the Kindness Institute perfectly aligns with that of the division of social sciences, where engaging the amazing diversity and social challenges shaping Los Angeles routinely inspires research that has the potential to change the world,” Hunt said.

To read the full UCLA Newsroom press release, click HERE.

Since 2015, TEDxUCLA has provided a platform for innovative thinkers to share powerful ideas. This year’s event included a talk by Bill Simon, the Co-Founder of UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind Foundation through UCLA Health. This organization is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity by providing grants to equip middle and high schools with state-of-the-art fitness programs, a comprehensive curriculum and professional development for physical education teachers.

Bill Simon is an adjunct professor in both the Department of Economics and the Law School at UCLA, recipient of the Marty Skyler My Last Lecture Award, and a former Republican nominee for California governor. In 1988, he and his wife, Cindy, created the foundation to help schools bolster their lagging physical education programs. The organization joined forces with UCLA Health in 2015. To date, the program is in 141 schools nationally (127 in the Los Angeles area) and serves more than 170,000 students each year.

In his Ted Talk, Professor Simon addressed the importance of his Physical Education (PE) along with his plea to prioritize and fund PE at all schools for all children. He addresses the critical gains made if PE was a requirement at schools. Professor Simon implores that not only would regular exercise decrease obesity and future disease, but that it teaches children vital tools such as perseverance and resistance needed to be successful in their future. Professor Simon’s compelling story about his autistic son teaches us that Physical Education is needed as the foundation for a healthy start for children to build their character and connect mind, body, and spirit.

Starting his talk with a Pop-Quiz, Professor Simon moves to inform us of the transcendent value that is often undervalued, including social, intellectual and academic spaces. With parents battling to make sure kids aren’t spending too many hours in front of screens, Professor Simon reminds us that moving more is good for not only our body, but also for our minds. Ultimately, we are encouraged to understand why physical education is a student’s most important subject.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. To view the entire talk, click HERE.

By UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI)

In their 5th Annual Latinx Criminal Justice Convening, LatinoJustice PRLDEF partnered with Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network brought local and national organizations to Brownsville, TX to engage in conversation about Latinos in the criminal justice and immigration systems.

This two-day encuentro was intended to create a space for Latino leaders, activists, academics and impacted community members to explore the connection to the criminal justice and immigration systems across the United States while strategizing new efforts for a more inclusive movement that does not leave anyone behind.

Latino Justice PRLEF’s Jorge Renaud welcoming attendees and introducing the convening and its goals.

“It’s important to be collaborating [and to] bring that intersectionality in this space,” said Christina Patiño Houel, Network Weaver for RGV Equal Voice Network. Intersectionality and inclusivity were interwoven throughout the convening, being cognizant of the ways different structural oppressions work in tandem to affect the most vulnerable in our communities, in order to combat these injustices effectively. An example was how interpreters established a multilingual culture, ensuring Spanish and English-only speakers communicated smoothly with each other, as the organizers understood that language barriers hinder those trying to combat the injustices within the justice system and also understood that interpretation and translation were necessary since the event was a community-centered multi-generational convening. This emphasis was also felt when formerly-incarcerated individuals were welcomed home for the first time, integrating a healing component for all participants.

The discussions began by exploring how criminality, incarceration, immigration and the war on drugs have all played a role in the current relationship between the Latinx community and the criminal justice system. The lack of data on this community was highlighted by LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s president, Juan Cartagena, when he discussed how every system “affects us and we don’t even know how… we’re invisible.” He explained how even as the largest ethnic minority in the country, the system could not answer simple questions as to how many Latinxs are arrested. This point was underscored by Dr. Edward Vargas’, from Arizona State University, urgency for not only the need for data but accurate data. For example, polls said that 34% of Latinos had voted for Trump in Texas, but this number was proven to be wrong. When the precinct data was scraped, the actual number was 16%.

ACLU’s National Campaign Strategist, Jessica Sandoval; Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s Policy Analyst Jose Flores; and Youth Justice Coalition’s Anthony Robles talking speaking on the best strategies to end youth solitary confinement.

Community members highlighted their work on the ground to end collaboration between the state and local police departments with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the states of Texas and Georgia, jail closure and the prevention of a new jail in Los Angeles, and litigation. Crimmigration was the focal point of these conversations, where attorneys explained the importance of litigation and the need for patience in both the length of the process and the lack of social justice lawyers.

The conversation zeroed in on experts as they engaged in fishbowl conversations, discussing the development of gang databases and its impact on the immigrant community, the fight towards ending youth solitary, and the impact of these efforts on a national level.

Day one came to a close with the screening of Bad Hombres: From Colonization to Criminalization by award-winning filmmaker Carlos Sandoval, with attendees expressing their impressions to the documentary.

The second day was reserved for breakout sessions encouraging collaboration and the exchange of best practices in order to advance efforts and find resources in the community. Accountability partners were found and followed-up conversations were scheduled to further collaborate as a group.

“Learning more about crimmigration and its impact on the Latinx community has been eye-opening,” noted second-year UCLA Luskin student María Morales who attended the convening.  “It was an honor being able to attend this convening and feel such passion and dedication in the room.”

Attendees identifying action steps to continue collaboration among the organizations present.

The California Latino Legislative Caucus and UCLA LPPI staff gather for a photo that commemorates the second year of their partnership which aims to increase access to pertinent data science on Latinos.

By Celina Avalos and Sonja Diaz

On May 20, 2019, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) hosted its second annual California Latino Legislative Policy Briefing in Sacramento. The policy briefing, co-hosted by the California Latino Legislative Caucus and UCLA Government & Community Relations, featured research presentations by three LPPI faculty experts: Dean Gary Segura, Dr. Melissa Chinchilla and Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante.

The policy briefing was attended by 50 guests who are policy advocates, legislative staff, and community leaders. The meeting convened at La Cosecha in Sacramento where the group learned more about LPPI’s latest research findings and discussed policy interventions that could improve the lives of California residents.

LPPI expert Dr. Melissa Chinchilla and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz introduce LPPI’s recent report on Latino homelessness to a packed house in La Cosecha.

Attendees heard from the LPPI faculty experts on a wide-range of domestic policy issues including voting, housing, and health. The issues discussed in the briefing are critical policy challenges that the California legislature is addressing through new lawmaking. Each issue has unique impacts on California’s plurality. Fortunately, LPPI’s legislative briefing provided a space for policy leaders to understand more clearly which policy solutions are better suited to address the disparities faced by Latinos.

Kicking off the policy briefing was Dean Segura, who presented his research on public opinion trends leading to the 2020 presidential election. In 2018, LPPI’s research documented a 77% increase in Latino votes cast. This increase was configured by looking at and comparing the midterm elections from 2014 to 2018. Dean Segura’s presentation expanded on trends identifying leading public opinion sentiments that influenced voters of color (Asian Americans, Blacks, and Latinos) on issues involving immigration, #MeToo, access to affordable health care, and support for gun laws. Largely, the 2018 election illustrated the upward potential of Latino vote growth in and beyond California. The numbers showed voters of color embraced Democratic positions on guns, health care, and immigration at higher rates than their white peers.

Next, Dr. Chinchilla followed with her research on homelessness in Los Angeles County. In her policy presentation on Latino homelessness, Dr. Chinchilla cemented the lack of accurate data on Latinos facing housing insecurity and reiterated the fact that this demographic group remains undercounted.

LPPI Policy Fellow Celina Avalos met UFW leader and advocate Dolores Huerta during visits to the State Capital discussing LPPI’s work on housing and health.

Highlighting findings from her LPPI report, Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness, Dr. Chinchilla shared that homelessness is not a one size fits all narrative. She stated, “Many factors contribute to the undercount of Latinos facing housing insecurity, like immigration status, economic vulnerability, and cultural and language barriers.”

Dr. Vargas Bustamante concluded the policy briefing with his work on the California Latino physician crisis, which addresses a key issue facing the state—the shortage of healthcare workers. Dr. Vargas Bustamante’s policy presentation integrated findings from his report, Latino Physician Shortage in California: The Provider Perspective. He shared, “As California’s plurality, Latinos will represent 44.5% of California’s population by 2050. However, currently only 4.7% of physicians in California are Latino.”

According to Dr. Vargas Bustamante, the contributing factors to the Latino physician shortage include: lack of financial support and opportunity, academic disadvantages, navigation, underrepresentation, and citizenship.

LPPI’s briefing provided a novel opportunity for leading policy stakeholders to engage in timely policy issues centered on the needs of the state’s plurality. This briefing builds upon LPPI’s legislative portfolio of engaging elected and appointed officials on critical policy issues with data and facts, breeding new research-practice partnerships and accelerating the capacity for evidence-based policy.

Policy Fellows pose for a photo before a jam-packed day at the Greenlining Economic Summit. (From left to right: Julio Mendez, Celina Avalos, Amado Castillo, Eduardo Solis, and Vianney Gomez)

By Vianney Gomez and Celina Avalos

As policy fellows with the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), we are afforded unique opportunities to engage in professional development training and experiences that enhance our skill set as student policy advocates.

On Friday, April 26th, five LPPI Policy Fellows attended the Greenlining Economic Summit in Oakland to participate in a convening of scholars, policymakers, and stakeholders across a variety of different policy sectors to discuss pressing issues. Opening remarks by community leaders, students, and policy advocates left us inspired to pursue and find solutions to issues that personally affect us and our communities—gender equity, immigration reform, climate change, and more.

At the summit, we had the opportunity to attend various panels that dealt with a broad scope of policy issues, including equitable community development, environmental justice, and community organizing. We were also at the Summit to support LPPI’s Founding Executive Director, Sonja Diaz, who was a featured panelist in the “Building Health, Wealth, and Power: Advancing Health Equity Through Community Development” panel. The panel was moderated by Anthony Galace, Greenlining Institute’s Health Equity Director and featured remarks from the following experts: Pablo Bravo Vial, Vice-President of Community Health at Dignity Health; Aysha Pamukcu, Health Equity Lead at ChangeLab Solutions; and Tonya Love, District Director for Assemblymember Rob Bonta. The “Building Health, Wealth, and Power” panel focused on how to identify and combat racial inequities through development, health access, and social policy. Through an intersectional lens, the panelists described the myriad of ways that underrepresented and underserved groups across the state are denied access to health care. This included shocking statistics and data on the Black-White infant mortality gap and the estimated five centuries it will take to address California’s Latino physician crisis.

LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz shares research findings on the Latino Physician Crisis at the “Building Health, Wealth, & Power” panel. (From left to right: Anthony Galace, Tonya Love, Pablo Bravo, Sonja Diaz, and Aysha Pamukcu)

The “Building Health, Wealth, and Power” panel provided an important lens to address the social determinants of health and well-being. One of the greatest takeaways for us was seeing women of color leaders in action. As first-generation Latinas, it was refreshing to hear our voices reflected in a professional setting where, more often than not, women of color are left out. This is especially true in conversations around public policy and governance. With a majority women of color panel, we witnessed powerhouse leaders transform a seemingly dry conversation on healthcare to real-world exploration of racism, discrimination, and policy innovation. They helped humanize complex issues and structural dimensions of inequality. Moreover, they clearly articulated how high-level decisions impact the daily lives of our parents, grandparents, neighbors, and communities.

As students from underrepresented backgrounds, we felt included and seen in the conversation. We know first-hand how the lack of access to resources can pose a grave, life-threatening danger to the most vulnerable members of our communities. We are aware of how the slightest change in policy framing can positively improve the lives of marginalized communities. Panelists drew from similar personal experiences from our own lives to provide a human narrative, while unapologetically laying blame on implicit and explicit discriminatory policy frameworks that leave people of color worse off.

Our lives as low-income, first-generation Latinas deeply resonated with the work the panelists pursue every day as researchers, advocates, and political staffers. Data and policy analysis, centered on the needs of communities of color, is a tool to address the social and economic disparities facing communities like ours.

The Greenlining Economic Summit demonstrated the power that lies in coalition building and the importance of empowering policy advocates who are women of color. We feel grateful to have attended a conference like the Summit; a space that is receptive and welcoming to the ideas and concerns of students like us. Attending a panel, which featured strong women of color with new perspectives, enabled our motivation to pursue future avenues in public policy. It served as a reminder that policy advocacy is possible for us too!

LPPI Policy Fellows, Celina Avalos and Julio Mendez, networking with policy advocates, like Melina Duarte, at the Greenlining Economic Summit mixer. (From left to right: Celina Avalos, Julio Mendez, and Melina Duarte)

Earlier this year, in collaboration with Dr. Melissa Chinchilla, PhD, MCP, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) presented a critical look at the unique experience of Latino homelessness in Los Angeles County, the jurisdiction with the largest homeless population in the U.S. Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness: Lessons from Los Angeles County, identifies the social, political, and policy challenges facing Latinos. This report draws on two-dozen interviews with a cross-sector cadre of housing stakeholders to dissect the systemic issues that contribute to Latino housing insecurity and identify evidence-based policy solutions to improve opportunity and mobility for Latino families.

LPPI’s report finds that service providers struggle to serve limited English proficient populations and the current racially charged political landscape further discourages those most in need. “The issues affecting Latino homelessness mirror the societal issues affecting all but also are distinct to Latinos,” says Marco Santana, director of engagement at L.A. Family Housing. “There is the barrier of being a proud Latino and wanting to figure it out on your own, and the few times they reach out to access these societal safety nets, they’re met with the barrier of our current government and the fear of deportation or potentially being discriminated against by law enforcement.”

Latinos make up 48 percent of Los Angeles County’s population and 35 percent of the homeless population. Research and literature around homelessness finds that Latinos are likely to be undercounted in homeless counts because they rely on social networks rather than homeless services, are more likely to live in unstable and overcrowded households, and when living on the streets will settle in remote areas that are hard for service workers to reach. “The Latino Homeless community is one of the most vulnerable populations in Los Angeles that is often in the shadows and has not been a priority for many years,” says Raquel Román, program director at the Guadalupe Homeless Project of Dolores Mission in Los Angeles.

“Holding true to its mission to inform and improve the economic, political, and social landscape for Latinos, UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative’s new report – Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness: Lessons from Los Angeles County – is sure to spark conversation, research, and coalition-building. In the face of a pressing affordable housing crisis and unprecedented federal hostility towards immigrants, this report provides a first look at an under-studied issue and offers targeted recommendations for future action and policy interventions in the field,” shares Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Leveraging the knowledge and experience of experts in the field, LPPI recommends both short and long-term policy solutions to address the unique cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic needs of housing insecure Latinos. “There has been increasing recognition in recent years that in working to prevent and end homelessness, we must address the systems that perpetuate racial inequity,” stated Bill Pitkin, director of Domestic Programs for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Pitkin adds, “This report provides an important contribution to those efforts by highlighting the particular causes of housing instability and homelessness among Latinos.”

Read the full report at: latino.ucla.edu/housing

About the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative:

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is a comprehensive think tank that addresses the most critical domestic policy challenges facing communities of color in states and localities across the U.S. LPPI fosters innovative research, leverages policy-relevant expertise, drives civic engagement, and nurtures a leadership pipeline to propel viable policy reforms that expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more at: latino.ucla.edu

 

  • UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative study finds that Latino students pursuing a medical career in California must overcome significant barriers to successfully become physicians. The main barriers identified are: financial and opportunity cost, academic disadvantages, navigation, underrepresentation and citizenship.
  • Barriers to the medical profession further exasperate the Latino physician shortage in California. Policymakers, advocates and stakeholders must address the barriers encountered by Latinos in the medical profession to meet the health care needs of all residents.

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), in collaboration with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, recently released its fourth installation of policy reports addressing California’s Latino Physician Shortage. Authored by LPPI Faculty Research Expert Dr. Arturo Vargas-Bustamante and Lucía Félix Beltrán, Latino Physician Shortage in California: The Provider Prospective discusses the main barriers and sources of support identified by a sample of Latino pre-med students, medical school applicants, Latino medical students, and recently graduated Latino physicians.

This report finds that, “the medical profession is de facto not open to everyone.” Specifically, unequal backgrounds and opportunities, diverse career trajectories, and various barriers in the medical profession, such as underrepresentation of Latinos in the medical field or academic disadvantages, are creating major difficulties for Latino students seeking careers as physicians.

“This analysis by Bustamante and Beltran provides a critically needed and comprehensive examination of the pipeline from high school, through college, and into medical school faced by Latinx students.  Importantly, it examines the multiple causes of leaks from that pipeline using an innovative methodology incorporating the experiences of those students.  It is these leaks that impair California’s ability to generate the diverse physician workforce needed to care for the State’s increasingly diverse population.” says Dr. David Carlisle, President of Charles Drew University, a private, nonprofit University committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations.

In 2015, Latinos became California’s plurality population with approximately 15.2 million Latinos residing in the state. By 2050, Latinos are estimated to represent 44.5% of the state’s population.[1] While the Latino population continues to grow, the supply of Latino physicians has not caught up.[2] The scarcity of Latino physicians in California has led to a deficit of 54,655 Latino physicians that are required to achieve parity with Non-Hispanic Whites.[3]

Pipeline programs and mentorship platforms partly address the barriers Latino students face to become physicians with support such as tutoring, mentorship, and exposure to the medical profession. However, these programs alone are unable to substantially change the low representation of Latinos in the medical profession.

Therefore, California must reduce the barriers faced by Latino physician hopefuls throughout the state. The report includes policy recommendations that directly address the barriers that unnecessarily complicate the navigation of medical education for Latinos. Policy recommendations outlined in the report include, increasing financial resources available to students who do not qualify for existing programs, such as those that require citizenship, or addressing academic disadvantages by coordinating and expanding pipeline programs that support students from middle school until medical school.

The need to address this deficit is increasingly pressing as the share of the Latino population increases in California, and as the demand for health care increases with population aging. Every year that California does not work to increase access of the medical education for Latino students, already inadequate access to high quality care worsens, ultimately impacting the overall healthcare outcomes of the state.

 

This research was made possible by a generous grant from AltaMed Health Services Corporation.

Read the full report at: latino.ucla.edu/health

About the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative:

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is a comprehensive think tank that addresses the most critical domestic policy challenges facing communities of color in states and localities across the U.S. LPPI fosters innovative research, leverages policy-relevant expertise, drives civic engagement, and nurtures a leadership pipeline to propel viable policy reforms that expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more at: latino.ucla.edu

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[1] DOF. Projections. 2018; http://www.dof.ca.gov/Forecasting/Demographics/Projections/.

[2] Sanchez G., Nevarez T., Schink W., Hayes-Bautista D. E. Latino Physicians in the United States, 1980-2010: A Thirty-Year Overview From the Censuses. 2015(1938-808X (Electronic)).

[3] Hsu P, Balderas-Medina Anaya Y, Hayes-Bautista D. E. 5 Centuries to Reach Parity: An Analysis of How Long it Will Take to Address California’s Latino Physician Shortage. Los Angeles, CA: Latino Policy & Politic Initiative; October 2018 2018.

By Eli R. Wilson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico

In the winter of 2010, just months after graduating from Wesleyan University, I landed a job as a food runner at a much-hyped new restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. Training in this position meant mingling with bussers and food runners, all of whom were working-class, Latino men. For weeks, I did all I could to keep from bumping into my coworkers and diners, while my peers ran circles around me. A month after opening, it was clear the restaurant was not doing as well as expected, and management announced that they were going to have to let some people go. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t one of them. Instead, I was promoted to a position behind the bar, a more prestigious role earning much larger tips. The reaction of my colleagues was nothing but positive, even though I’d been promoted above much more qualified (nonwhite) staff. These interactions stayed with me for years, propelling my graduate research into service dynamics within restaurant workplaces in large, global cities.

A full decade later, my research has revealed how the dynamics of service work reproduce social inequalities of race, class, immigration, and gender. While some restaurant workers are able to leverage workplace conditions to their advantage (in the form of flexible jobs and relatively lucrative pay), many others find themselves bound within socially stratified worlds of work that offer unpredictable and insecure jobs.

When most people think of tipping, they think only of the exchange between a customer and worker, ending with a tip being passed between them. In fact, there is an extended network of workers who labor in the shadow of tips but with unequal access to them. Servers and bartenders, who tend to be white and middle-class, enjoy the lion’s share of tips, whereas bussers, cooks, and dishwashers, who tend to be foreign-born Latino men, usually receive a relatively small cut of this money or none at all.

The unequal distribution of tips behind the scenes creates both interpersonal tensions and uneasy alliances between groups of workers who already have little in common. A server might slide a five-dollar bill to a cook in order to ensure speedy food preparation and perfectly cooked steaks. At the end of the same shift, the dishwashers staring down heaping piles of dirty plates may feel that the servers in the dining room work half as hard and make twice as much money. In a labor environment where service workers earn wages at or scarcely above minimum wage, tips—which can amount to hundreds of dollars a shift—represent economic power that only a privileged subset of workers can access. Long after the last customers depart, the gratuities they leave behind deepen employee divisions already stressed by race, class, and gender differences.

Tips have another dangerous byproduct: Because individual workers are focused on receiving more gratuities—often tensely negotiating these among themselves—it is difficult to build collective forms of labor solidarity among restaurant workers. The struggle for tips has half of all restaurant employees focused on individual strategies to extract gratuities from customers rather than on seeking common ground with other employees to advocate for higher wages, benefits, or better working conditions. Tip work, be it in restaurants, hotels, or high-end spas, exacerbates the labor conditions that keep groups of service workers divided and leaves marginal working conditions unchallenged.

 

A former research affiliate with the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE), Eli R. Wilson is now an assistant professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico. While at the IRLE, he completed his article “Tip Work: Examining the Relational Dynamics of Tipping beyond the Service Counter,” recently published in Symbolic Interaction. Dr. Wilson’s research and teaching focus on how social inequalities of race, class, and gender are both reproduced and contested in urban labor markets. He is publishing his first book, Serving Across the Divide, which builds from six years of ethnographic research exploring labor and inequality in LA’s restaurant industry.