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California as Bellwether and the Most Ethnically Diverse State of the USA Expository Essay


Introduction

Nowadays, California is one of the most well-known American states in the world, as well as one of the most influential ones inside this country. It is often called the bellwether state of the US, meaning that it often sets the trend of actions in America. It is also the most ethnically diverse state in this country. In our paper, we will discuss California’s bellwetherness and the historical development of its ethnic diversity.

California as a Bellwether State

California is the third largest state in the US, and the most populous one. Its rapid development began in the middle of the 19th century. McWilliams argues that California’s progression rate was the fastest among the American states; it was “hurled forward… by a series of chain-reaction explosions” throughout the course of history (25).

The growth was caused by the Gold Rush (1848-1855), as well as by major oil production in the 20th century and by the development of other industries (McWilliams 25-27, 37). Soja points out that Karl Marx was particularly interested in California due to the fact that the discovery of gold was followed by immense capitalist centralization that emerged practically out of nowhere (190-191).

Today California is known throughout the USA as a bellwether state, which means that important social and political phenomena, such as adopted laws, influential court decisions, electoral preferences etc. existing in this state often tend either to be or to become a trend all over the US (Cadrain par. 1). The general opinion of the state’s people is also considered representative, which is due to the population’s great size (Gardner par. 5)

Cadrain gives some examples of tendencies which began in California and spread across the whole nation. One of them is the 2004 adoption of the law that made employers organize trainings on sexual harassment for their employees. In 2007, 15 states already adopted analogous laws. In the other ones, businesspeople who didn’t organize such programs, despite having not been prosecuted by law, might have been liable for any problems that could have been prevented by these programs (Cadrain par. 9-10).

Another example is the paid family leave law, which allowed workers to have up to three fortnights off each year if they had a very young child, or if their family had a severely diseased member. Soon after that, non-Californian American lawmakers adopted similar laws (Cadrain par. 11-17).

One more example is supplied by Park, who mentions Californian anti-tobacco and smog protection legislation, as well as laws requiring cyclists to use helmets, which, despite initially causing skeptical reaction, eventually became a standard for many other states (Park par. 2-3). M. Horton states that California plays the role of a legislative laboratory for the rest of the country (qtd. in Park par. 5).

On the other hand, there is a negative side to this issue. It is highlighted that Californian legal initiatives, despite usually being quite progressive, are totally overwhelming; in 2012, the state’s code of laws included approximately 150,000 health and safety laws, and hundreds of new bills were adopted each year (Park par. 6-8).

Still, the tendency of the other states to follow California’s lead remains a fact. It is also important to note that the Silicon Valley, one of the most world-famous American places due to its highly developed technological industry, and the globe-known Hollywood are also located in California. The products made in these places, in fact, to a certain extent form not just the national, but a worldwide definition of what it is to be American.

Historical Development of California’s Ethnic Diversity

Today California, as was mentioned, is the most populated state of the USA. It is also one of the most diverse places in this country. But how this ethnic diversity came to be historically?

We might start with the middle of the 19th century, when, as it was already mentioned, the Gold Rush stimulated rapid development of the region. Gregory highlights that the Gold Rush transformed the image of California, turning it into a land of opportunity in the minds of people (38). Therefore, the ethnic variety of the region also began increasing in that period (McWilliams 64).

The immigration to California was immense; in 1850, adult males accounted for 92% of the state’s population (McWilliams 66). The migration to the USA was so intense that the federal government adopted the Chinese Exclusion Act in1882; the “land of opportunity and freedom” became closed to Chinese people.

Still, people from worldwide continued to come to the USA, to California in particular. It is stated that in the early 1900s, more immigrants arrived in the state (“Calisphere” par. 5). It should be added that their arrival was stimulated by the development of the oil industry (McWilliams 37), as well as by the massive potential for production of fiber and food (Gregory 37). These immigrants included Japanese, Mexican, and Filipino people (“Calisphere” par. 6). The migrants often became victims of racism, but many of them settled in the state (“Calisphere” par. 8).

Despite that, in 1930s the California’s population was still mainly white; Asian, Black, and Native Americans accounted only for 5% of the population, Mexicans – for 6% (Gregory 37). After the World War II, the number of California dwellers rapidly increased, as well as the percentage of non-Whites; but non-Hispanic Whites still were the dominant group.

It is noted that they accounted for more than 70% of the population of 54 out of 58 counties, and for almost 80% population of the state in 1970 (A Portrait of Race and Ethnicity in California vii, 5). However, the diversity significantly increased over the span of three decades; in 1998, “only 28 counties had a population that was over 70 percent white”, and the general population of California only included 52% of non-Hispanic Whites (A Portrait of Race and Ethnicity in California vii, 5).

This was the result of massive international migration into California, combined with higher fertility rates among Hispanics, older age and shorter life expectancy of Whites, and different family structure (A Portrait of Race and Ethnicity in California 5-6).

It is known that in 2013 the California’s population consisted of 39% Whites (not Hispanics or Latinos), 38.4% Hispanics or Latinos, 14.1% Asians, 6.6% Black people; 3.7% people of two or more races, 1.7% Native Americans (“California Quick Facts” par. 11-18). Only the percentage of Whites (not Hispanics or Latinos) and Blacks was lower in California than in the USA generally (“California Quick Facts” par. 11-18).

Kolko in his 2012 article gives a list of ten most diverse metropolises of the USA, and four of them (San Jose, Oakland, Orange County, and San Francisco) are located in California; in these metropolises, the largest ethnic groups account only for 33-46% of the population (par. 4).

So, the ethnic variety in California started increasing with the beginning of the Gold Rush. The process continued for over a century, relatively slowly, until in the three last decades of the 20th century the diversity rate rapidly increased.

Conclusion

Therefore, California indeed may be called the bellwether state of the US, as it often initiates social and political tendencies that are later copied by other states. Its ethnic variety began increasing in the mid-19th century; the rate of growth rose dramatically at the end of the 20th century, creating one of the most ethnically diverse places in the USA.

Works Cited

. Ed. Belinda I. Reyes. 2001. Web.

Cadrain, Diane. HR Magazine: . 2007. Web.

California Quick Facts from the US Census Bureau. Web.

Calisphere – . Web.

Gardner, Walt. I 1 Aug. 2012. Web.

Gregory, James Noble. American Exodus: . Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1991. Google Books. Web.

Kolko, Jed. . 2012. Web.

McWilliams, Carey. C. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1949. Google Books. Web.

Park, Madison. . 2012. Web.

Soja, Edward William. . London, UK: Verso, 1989. Google Books. Web.

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IvyPanda. "California as Bellwether and the Most Ethnically Diverse State of the USA." May 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/california-as-bellwether-and-the-most-ethnically-diverse-state-of-the-usa/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "California as Bellwether and the Most Ethnically Diverse State of the USA." May 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/california-as-bellwether-and-the-most-ethnically-diverse-state-of-the-usa/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'California as Bellwether and the Most Ethnically Diverse State of the USA'. 27 May.

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