Portrait of LA:
From Glittering to Precarious

A recently released report provides an unprecedented analysis of well-being and access to opportunity in Los Angeles County, allowing policymakers and other leaders to better pinpoint communities of greatest need. A Portrait of Los Angeles County revealed large gaps in well-being across location, gender, and race, and identified trends and recommendations for progress.

Commissioned by the County’s Office of Child Protection and released by Measure of America, the report assigned American Human Development Index scores for places and demographic groups, and explored a range of critical issues, including health, education, living standards, environmental justice, housing, homelessness, violence, and inequality.

“The County has been prioritizing data collection and analysis to enable us to make smarter decisions to support the well-being of our 10 million residents,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This report provides us with a portrait that can begin to immediately inform County decision-making.”

“This way of measuring well-being is totally new to Los Angeles, and allows us to understand how income, health and education intersect to contribute to well-being or, alternatively, to disadvantage,” added Board of Supervisors Chair Sheila Kuehl. “We knew there were disparities across the County but now we have a way of measuring that disparity and geographically pinpointing areas of greatest need.”

On the ten-point American Human Development Index scale, the highest- and lowest-scoring communities are separated by an astounding seven points. San Marino, Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes Estates topped the list, all scoring over 9.3 on the index. Lennox, East Rancho Dominquez and Florence-Graham each scored lower than 2.7. Within the City of Los Angeles, broken down by community plan area, the gaps are even larger. Bel Air-Beverly Crest and Brentwood-Pacific Palisades are on top with scores of 9.51 and 9.24, respectively, and Southeast LA is at the bottom with 2.26.

“The Portrait provides us with critical information about the well-being of communities that is greatly needed to effectively target prevention supports to the families who need them most,” said Office of Child Protection executive director Judge Michael Nash.

“While metrics like GDP measure how the economy is doing, the American HD Index measures how people are doing, offering a more accurate and nuanced perspective on opportunity and well-being,” said Kristen Lewis, co-director of Measure of America and co-author of A Portrait of LAC. “This study shows that some groups of Angelenos have the highest levels of well-being in the United States—and others have some of the lowest.”

The report concluded by recommending 10 high-value investment areas, such as reducing the toll of violence and trauma, investing in high-quality early care and education for infants and toddlers, expanding affordable housing, addressing racial and ethnic disparities, and helping young people graduate high school and transition to adulthood.