During the last several decades many Chicanos and Latino immigrants have made rural communities their permanent homes. As their numbers have increased, the numbers of non-Hispanic white people have decreased in absolute and relative amounts in these areas. Rural Latinos are currently concentrated in about 100 communities where there are agricultural jobs.l Correlation analyses show that greater concentration of Latinos is associated with more of the population in poverty, more of the labor force in agriculture fewer adults with a high school degree or some college education, lower per capita community revenues, and lower per capita community expenditures.2
These trends can be partially, but not entirely, explained by increasing immigration from Mexico, and depressed wages and conditions in the farm labor market. While immigration generally brings more income to local communities, it also can increase underemployment, poverty, and public assistance use.3 As conditions in the farm labor market deteriorate, so do the service provision efforts of farmdependent communities. An increasingly poor community cannot support a viable commercial sector, and without much local commerce, city governments have stagnant tax bases.4 To counter such problems, rural development policy has focused on helping people acquire skills and move out of rural areas, and promoting investment in communities to stimulate growth.5 However, these solutions don't improve the well-being of the community-better educated people move out, leaving space for new, poorer migrants, while economic growth does not bring relief from poverty for all groups of residents.6
This Statistical Brief provides a basis for further study of these phenomena by examining trends in population and community well-being among rural communities in California. It then profiles eight specific communities located in a highly agricultural area-between Fresno and Bakersfield in the San Joaquin valley. These eight communities have been selected by means of percentile rankings as being representative of general trends, yet differing somewhat from neighboring communities. These analyses allow us to focus on the following questions:
(1) What are the specific relationships between greater agricultural employment, immigration, Latino population concentration, and community life variables?
(2) Which demographic variables best predict economic well-being among rural communities?
(3) What patterns are discernible in terms of immigration and economic health for rural communities? Are communities experiencing similar patterns? How are these patterns emerging in specific communities?
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