Economy & Governance

How Does California's Economic Performance Compare to the Other States?

In considering how state policy might improve California’s economic performance—especially when comparing California policies to those in other states—it is essential to put California’s economic performance into the proper context and perspective.

To that end, this report provides a rich and multi-dimensional empirical description of California’s economic performance relative to other states. It provides up-to-date and comprehensive longer-term comparisons that are essential to well-informed debate about where the state performs comparatively well, and where it comes up comparatively short.

Concurrent with the production of this report, Next 10 produced, a new interactive web tool that allows users to view, track, and compare more than 60 economic indicators to dynamically compare economies of the 50 states, with a focus on innovation, jobs, and income and equity.

  • In 2011, California's overall economic performance (including economic growth, jobs, earnings, income distribution and poverty rate) tracks on par with most states.
  • While California has seen significant recent drops in unemployment (2010 to 2011), over the long-term (1991-2011) job growth in California has been sluggish, with a higher unemployment rate than most states.
  • Over the last two decades, there has been real income growth for high-income families across the country and in California, but no significant growth at the middle of the income distribution and declines at the bottom. When compared to California, many states register larger income disparity increases (1991-2011).
  • In California, GSP grows faster during good economic times, but drops more sharply during tough economic times.

A sample of findings from the new web tool include:

  • California's per capita real GSP growth was slightly higher than the U.S. as a whole from 1991 to 2011, with Oregon and North Dakota displaying the highest levels of growth in the nation over that time period.
  • Comparing the total number of patents granted in California to Texas and New York, California comes out ahead with 30,570 patents in 2011, Texas with 8,045, and New York with 7,842.
  • Looking at exports for the same three states as a percent of their GDP, Texas leads the pack at 19.18 percent, with California and New York slightly lagging the U.S.—with exports at 9.88 percent of GDP—with 8.12 and 7.33 percent, respectively.
  • Comparing California earnings with those in New York and Texas, New York state residents enjoy the highest median weekly earnings taking home $720 per week in 2011. California's median weekly earnings stood at $663 in the same year, and Texas reported $600 in median weekly earnings.