Analysis and Commentary: First Look at the City Demographic Data Shows Some Troubling Findings

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I finally got ahold of the data I had been wanting to see – precinct level data on demographics.  I haven’t dived very deep yet.  This is consolidated data so there are only 34 precincts, but at least it gives us a start.

At the outset here, let me say that the way the law is written none of this really matters – the city is going to have to go to district elections, and all signs continue to show that if they fight this, they will still have to go to district elections and they will spend a lot of money.

That said, even going beyond the issue of district elections, we need to get a much better handle on what these data are telling us.

Recall a few weeks ago that we did an ethnic breakdown.

What we found was that Davis is much more ethnically diverse than a lot of people think.

Data from the 2010 census shows that Davis was at that time about 65 percent white.  The 2017 State of the City report utilizing the 2015 American Community Survey found about 56.5 percent of the population to be white.  That would suggest current totals somewhere between 52 and 55 percent to be reasonable.

The first thing we find when we look at the voter data, however, is that instead of 56 percent white as the census estimate suggests or even 65 percent white as the census from 2010 indicated, the registered voter pool is a whopping 77.4 percent white.

Second, according to the State of the City report, relying on the census estimates from 2015, they found Asians represented 21.7 percent of the population while Hispanics were 13.4 percent.

However, in the registered voter data we find that it is actually Hispanics that represent the largest minority group at 10.6 percent, while Asians fall to just 9.8 percent of all registered voters.

A key question is going to be why that is the case.  In the case of the Hispanic population, 10.5 percent is not that far off from their 13.4 percent share of the overall population.  That can be accounted for by under-registration and perhaps a number of residents who are not citizens and thus ineligible to vote.

The Asian population is harder to account for.  There are several possible explanations here.  First, there could be a pool of Asian residents who are not citizens.  But dropping from 21.7 percent down to 9.8 percent is fairly large for it to only be non-citizens.

A second possibility is that the census is picking up some of the large Asian student population who live in Davis.  There is also a fairly large international student population, many of whom are Asians as well.

There is a third factor here.  We know that the school age population is a good deal more diverse than the voting population as well. DJUSD is about 57 percent white or so and 43 percent minority.  Does that reflect that there is an age component here as well, with younger residents being far more ethnically diverse than older residents?

One thing is clear, the voting population in Davis is a good deal less diverse than the population that actually resides in the city.  And that becomes even more the case in the nine months when UC Davis is in session and you have a large ethnically diverse population living in our midst that are not permanent members of the population.

Do these factors change the legal situation for the city?  Probably not.  But it is interesting to note.  And probably important enough to warrant further study.

Are there ethnic enclaves in Davis?  The data point to a fairly widely divergent voting population.    On the high end, there are 11 precincts where the voting demographic is more than 80 percent white, including one where it is 88 percent white.

On the low end, there is one precinct that is only 60 percent white with another that is 63.5 percent white.  Hispanics outnumber Asians in the 60 percent precinct but Asians outnumber Hispanics in the 63 percent one.

In the six most minority precincts, there are 69 percent white, 15 percent Asian and 12.8 Hispanic.  Meanwhile in the six least minority precincts, on the other hand, they are a combined 85.7 percent white, just 5 percent Asian and 7 percent Hispanic.

Something to keep in mind here is if the voter registration numbers really are under-reporting minority populations by the magnitude it appears, those precincts that are 60 to 69 percent white may actually be majority minority precincts.

This is a very cursory and preliminary look at the demographics in Davis.  But, from the data, we can reach two reasonable conclusions.  First, that minorities are under-represented among registered voters and we should probably try to find out why.  Second, there is a good deal of variability within the city ethnically and there are some areas of town where the actual living population is likely majority minority.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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40 thoughts on “Analysis and Commentary: First Look at the City Demographic Data Shows Some Troubling Findings”

  1. Matt Williams

    David, please explain why, for the purposes of districting, voter registrations matter.  Based on what has happened to date under the provisions of California’s 2008 Voters FIRST Act, what appears to matter is “demographic characteristics that may reflect their preferences concerning political representation.”  You will note in the complete language below, registration to vote is not one of the listed characteristics. Whether/How a person chooses to register to vote is a preference/choice.

    2 CCR § 60805

    § 60805. Appreciation for California’s Diverse Demographics and Geography.

    (a) “Appreciation for California’s diverse demographics and geography” means all of the following:

    (1) An understanding that California’s population consists of individuals sharing certain demographic characteristics that may reflect their preferences concerning political representation, including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and economic status.

    (2) An understanding that the people of California reside in many different localities with distinct geographic characteristics that may reflect the preferences of the residents concerning their political representation, including, but not limited to, urban, suburban, rural, industrial, agricultural, coastal, inland, arid, and temperate.

    (3) A recognition that California benefits by having effective participation in the electoral process by persons of all demographic characteristics and residing in all geographic locations, including, but not limited to, participation by those persons who in the past, as a consequence of sharing certain demographic characteristics, such as race and ethnicity, have had less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the electoral process.

    1. Eric Gelber

      Matt – I don’t know that your conclusion is wrong, but the regulatory language you quote relates to the California Redistricting Commission, not the California Voting Rights Act.

  2. David Greenwald

    Matt: As I explained at the outset: “At the outset here, let me say that the way the law is written none of this really matters ”

    But the reason I went through this is that it gives us an idea what’s happening in terms of ethnic/ racial breakdown on a precinct by precinct level.

    1. Bill Marshall

      But the reason I went through this is that it gives us an idea what’s happening in terms of ethnic/ racial breakdown on a precinct by precinct level.

      Which brings us to phase II, implementation… where everything matters… see also piece by Dillan Horton, who posits that earliest implementation, and truncated limits of term for the three to be elected (City – 2020)) is November 2022.

      So to accommodate folk, we are switching from ‘at-large’, to ‘district’ and from CC elections in June to elections in November…

      To paraphrase the first telegraph message (irony intended), “What hath folk wrought?” (or ‘what hath attorney Rexroth and clients railroaded?’)… my bet is still it’s more about getting Republicans and or ‘conservatives’ elected, than folk representing tre “protected classes”…

      And I still reject the notion that those of non ‘protected class’ backgrounds are disinclined or incapable of effectively representing ‘protected class’ people… to think otherwise sure appears to be biased, and/or hubris…

        1. Bill Marshall

          Correct Mark… as did ACP…

          Powell represented Harlem… seldom showed up on the House floor, sent most of his time in FL or on Bimini… a mixed race,  ‘black’ guy who lived high on the hog, was corrupt, and the Black and Hispanic communities in Harlem were represented by ‘one of their own’… great justification for folk of ‘protected classes’ to have ‘one of their own’ to “represent” them… the people eventually got it, and voted for Rangell, instead…

          ACP cared little for the folk he pretended to represent…

    2. Matt Williams

      I understand that David, but you are off on a tangent when you cite voter registrations rather than census population.  For anyone who is a voting age citizen, the decision whether to register to vote is a discretionary choice.

      Discretionary choice has also very clearly played out in the list of people who have chosen to put themselves forward as candidates for City Council.  As I noted in a comment last week, there have been 61 Council candidates since 2000.  Counting Lee, Asmundson, Partida, Heystek, Escamilla-Greenwald, and Rios as “non-White” the percentage of non-White candidates who have won is 66.7% (6 out of 9) and the percentage of White candidates  who have won is 48.1% (25 out of 52).

      There are two different aspects of discretionary choice at work in those numbers.  In the first aspect of discretionary choice, only 14.7% of the people who have chosen to be candidates are non-White.  That is considerably lower than the 20.4% portion of the non-White registered voters in the Asian and Hispanic cohorts alone (add in the other non-White categories and the disparity gets worse.  On a pure population basis the 20.4% rises to 35.1%.

      In the second aspect of discretionary choice, the voters in Davis brought home the non-White candidates more frequently than the White candidates by a 138:100 ratio.  Out of 100% that is a 58% to 42% plurality, which in an election would be close to a discretionary choice Landslide.

      Finally, by focusing on voter registrations as you have, you are effectively saying that it doesn’t matter whether there is proportional representation of people who don’t choose to register to vote.  Is that really your intention, or is it simply an unintended consequence of the approach you have taken?

      1. Bill Marshall

        Interesting #’s… but, let’s face it…many are focused on ‘results-based’ vs. ‘opportunity based’… you speak of opportunities… which I believe is valid.  Others do not.

      2. David Greenwald

        You’re reading way more into this.  The first thing we need to do is establish what we know.  I had no idea the gap between registered and census was 20 points – did you?  We should probably understand why that’s the case regardless of this particular issue.  It also has a bearing on the issue of why people of color are underrepresented in Davis – they aren’t registered to vote.  Again that doesn’t seem to matter from the perspective of this law, but it matters overall.

  3. Hiram Jackson

    David Greenwald:  “The Asian population is harder to account for.”

    If you look at the DJUSD demographics, the Latinex population is the largest non-white percentage (21% v. 16% Asian).  On the other hand, if you look at the UCD demographics, 33% are identified as Asian v. 22% Latinex.

    DJUSD likely represents a more permanent population than the UCD’s.  As I understand it, current federal census is where you are on April 1, which is during the UCD academic year, so the U.S. census will capture the UCD student population.

    So probably all three explanations you offer are in play to some degree.

  4. Alan Miller

     . . .  instead of 56 percent white as the census estimate suggests or even 65 percent white as the census from 2010 indicated, the registered voter pool is a whopping 77.4 percent white.

    Whopping aside, one way to counter this would be for more non-white people to vote.  Last I checked they have this right.

    1. David Greenwald

      But to start with we need to better understand why they aren’t voting and in many cases why they aren’t even registering.  Is it because they can’t (non-resident student or non-citizen) or don’t?  We don’t know that answer.

      1. Matt Williams

        David, why is that answer important?

        The fact that they are not registered and/or not voting is irrelevant.

        If they are eligible to register and vote and choose not to do so, is that a personal behavior pattern that you want to eradicate?

        If they are not eligible to vote, how does that non-eligibility affect representation?

  5. Alan Miller

    A key question is going to be why that is the case.

    My key question is why ask why?

    57 percent white or so and 43 percent minority.

    You sure like labeling people as white and non-white

    The key here is that all US citizens of age can vote, label or no label — why are you so concerned with why they do or don’t — the important thing is that THEY ALL CAN.

    It isn’t up to society (read: progressives) to make them.  Although Australia does — and maybe we should too — but again, another topic.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Ahhhh… a possible koan… “why is one hand, not raised, when eligible and able, a “problem” for one (or society) who chooses to raise their hand?”

        Zensational…

        Maybe in the 40’s- 70’s that was a serious issue… still some vestiges in certain locales… but in 2019 Davis?

  6. Alan Miller

    Are there ethnic enclaves in Davis?

    I can point to a few very small ones, but I know for fact a lot of undocumented people live in these spots, and I’m not going to dox their location (although I think most people could figure this out and it doesn’t seem anyone on any ‘side’ is actively seeking to remove them).

    On the high end, there are 11 precincts where the voting demographic is more than 80 percent white, including one where it is 88 percent white. On the low end, there is one precinct that is only 60 percent white with another that is 63.5 percent white.

    White, white, white, whittitty, white white white!

  7. Ron Oertel

    From article:  “There is a third factor here.  We know that the school age population is a good deal more diverse than the voting population as well. DJUSD is about 57 percent white or so and 43 percent minority.  Does that reflect that there is an age component here as well, with younger residents being far more ethnically diverse than older residents?”

    Doesn’t this population include a significant number of non-Davis residents? If so, how does that relate to the subject of the article?

    Also wondering how school districts collect such information – especially if not voluntarily provided. In such cases, do they just “guess”?

    1. Bill Marshall

      Also wondering how school districts collect such information – especially if not voluntarily provided. In such cases, do they just “guess”?

      You “have no clue”.  Must not have a child in DJUSD, and haven’t for like 40 years… otherwise you’d know.

      No, they are not guessing… silly question.

      And yes, ostensibly voluntary info.

      My job description does not include ‘teaching’… seek elsewhere, Grasshopper…

      1. Ron Oertel

        So Bill, you took the time to issue a several-sentence response, just to point out that you wouldn’t respond?  What makes you think I was asking you in particular, in the first place?

        Regardless, I’m even more interested in the first question.  And since it’s based upon the statement in the article, perhaps David is the best one to respond:

        “Doesn’t this population include a significant number of non-Davis residents? If so, how does that relate to the subject of the article?”

        Might as well (also) include the second question again, since you didn’t address it.  (Please withhold future non-responses, as they add nothing to the conversation.)

        “Also wondering how school districts collect such information – especially if not voluntarily provided. In such cases, do they just “guess”?” 

        1. Don Shor

          “Also wondering how school districts collect such information – especially if not voluntarily provided. In such cases, do they just “guess”?”

          Student demographics is on the pre-enrollment form when the student enters the district.

        2. Ron Oertel

          “Student demographics is on the pre-enrollment form when the student enters the district.”

          Thanks for the response to one of my questions.

          Wondering how many people simply refuse to provide this information, and how that’s reflected in the results.  For example, might more “white” people decline to respond, compared to other groups? And if so, would that result in an (inaccurate) reduced percentage of that group, in the total results?

          I wonder what the non-response rate is, or how many parents think about how this information might be used.

  8. Alan Miller

    In such cases, do they just “guess”?

    I dunno, did Rexroad just “guess” as to our mayor’s “ethnicity”, or did he obtain “documentation” — or DNA — or “ask”?

  9. Dave Hart

    It also does not indicate that any district set up to include 7 or 8 precincts would be any better at teasing out a minority candidate.  The failures, on paper at least, of our school system to address minority achievement is a district-wide political problem.  School district elections have a narrow scope of issues compared to city government.  We haven’t been able to address the achievement disparity as an entire community and that won’t change one bit with district elections.  I understand the legal framework makes this a moot point, but it seems some people think district elections will change the politics of the school board.  No.  Making disparities in achievement an issue for at least three of the five districts will make a difference and that is the fundamental problem regardless of whether we have at-large or district elections.   Under the at-large election system, I could vote to support two or three candidates who are serious about achievement disparity.  Under district elections I can only vote for one.   All this applies to city elections except on steroids because of the much more complex kinds of issues.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Eight precincts/districts, bad idea… unless there is a Mayor ‘at-large’… ‘even’ # of votes is a recipe for gridlock… I opine, either existing 5, or 7, “tops”… and again I say, I strongly oppose a “strong Mayor” system… with the complexities of City governance, no way the electorate could choose someone of the qualifications to ‘run the City’… at least, competently…

      1. Dave Hart

        Read what I wrote again.  I was referring to 7 or 8 election precincts comprising one district based on David’s reference to 34 precincts.  34 divided by 7 equaling five, almost. So pick any 6, 7 or 8 current election precincts with more or less equal population and show me how any minority will have a better shot at getting elected. For that matter show me any area of town encompassing that many voters where a minority would be more than 50% of the population. Maybe it’s there, but it doesn’t sound like it from what David wrote.

  10. Ron Oertel

    I can envision a future where members of some groups either refuse to answer questions regarding race, or provide responses that are not entirely accurate. (Out of fear that it will ultimately be used against them.)

    1. Alan Miller

      That day is here.  I give false info just to be an arsehole, and because I hate statistics and surveys, and those who rely on them and use them as ‘science’.  If there is a comments box I say, “Your margin of error just went from 4% to 5%”.

      I’ve seen people check random boxes, just to get it over with.  They don’t care.  Margin of error 6%.

      I had a housemate who was from another country.  All his on-line information is deceptive, conflicting, and inaccurate.  This is to avoid cross-checking and correlation.  When he was younger, there was a civil war.  You don’t want to make it easy when the government comes looking for you, and who you affiliate with.

      We Americans are such fools.

       

    2. Bill Marshall

      Another complication, Ron… more and more folk are multi-ethnic (and that is a continuing trend)… most demographers do not recognize that, or only offer an either/or, or “other”, when designing questionnaires… hard to report demographics for someone who, is part Asian, part Black, part Latinex, part ‘white’… know, have known many who fit into at least two categories, three or four in three… and I’m not talking ‘the Warren 1%’… many folk from Mexico are part Spanish (white) and Native American.  So if a Latinex marries an Asian, and have kids, easy to get to 3 ethnicities… I know at least 3 folk that applies to.

        1. Alan Miller

          Have you read the law?

          No.  I haven’t read Moby Dick either.

          I’d just like to understand why some POC’s are more equal than others, or even more equal than any other human.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            But you’re discussing something you haven’t read. And might be able to answer your question if you do read it.

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