Some improvements have occurred recently in the quality of life for the Inland Empire, and the region continues to become more diverse, according to a recent report.

Dr. John Husing, a local economist, evaluated the data for 2016 which was released by the United States Census Bureau in its American Community Survey.

He said the report underscores "key issues facing the region that are at the forefront of work being undertaken in the region to deal with its great diversity while improving its quality of life. Fortunately, the quality of life measures are slowly improving.”

----- HISPANIC MAJORITY

Ethnically, the data showed that the inland area now has a majority of Hispanic residents (50.5 percent). This contrasts with 43.2 percent in the balance of Southern California. By county, the share was 48.4 percent in Riverside County and 52.8 percent in San Bernardino County. (Fontana's population is about two-thirds Hispanic.)

The white, non-Hispanic population fell to 32.8 percent for the Inland Empire, roughly equal to the 33.5 percent in the rest of Southern California. Here, the shares were 36.0 percent in Riverside County and 29.2 percent in San Bernardino County.

The African-American (7.0 percent) and Asian (6.7 percent) populations were similar in share. A key difference was the 14.6 percent of Asians in the coastal counties. By county, a slight separation was seen in that Asians were 7.3 percent of San Bernardino County but 6.3 percent of Riverside County.

----- HEALTH INSURANCE

Another important fact was the continued decline in the number of uninsured Inland Empire residents, largely thanks to the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare), Husing said.

In 2012, before Obamacare went into effect, there were 750,957 local persons with no health insurance, representing 28.8 percent of the population. By 2016, that had fallen to 336,238 or 12.4 percent of local residents. The decline in the number of uninsured has been 55.2 percent, while the share of uninsured was down 16.4 percent.

----- POVERTY LEVELS

Poverty remains a major concern for the Inland Empire, but it has improved somewhat, Husing said. In 2016, 17.7 percent of San Bernardino County residents were living below the poverty line, down from 19.0 percent in 2015. The Riverside County share was 15.3 percent, down from 16.2 percent the prior year. For children under 18, the San Bernardino share was 26.0 percent, down from 27.4 percent. The Riverside percentage was 21.1 percent, down from 22.8 percent.

----- EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT

Among adults 25 and over, the share that stop their schooling with high school or less educations was 45.2 percent in Riverside County during 2016, down from 46.4 percent in 2015. In San Bernardino County, the share fell slightly to 47.6 percent in 2016 from 47.8 percent. These remained the highest shares of marginally educated adults in Southern California, Husing said.

Meanwhile, the share with a four year or higher degree grew slightly. It went up to 21.8 percent in Riverside County from 20.7 percent in 2015. In San Bernardino County it reached 20.0 percent, up from 19.4 percent. Both figures were well below the Inland Empire competitor counties in Southern California, which ranged from 30.8 percent to 32.2 percent.

Husing is the chief economist of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership also develops strategic projects for the Inland Empire Business Council.

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