Santa Barbara County ranked 21st out of 58 for overall quality of life in a study of California counties conducted by the Social Science Research Council, “Measure of America 2013-2014: A Portrait of California.” The nationwide survey compared counties’ “human development index” — a well-being measurement derived from an aggregate of health, education, and living standards data sets — to describe the varying levels of life quality across state. Santa Barbara County earned a 5.16 score, with residents averaging a life expectancy of 82.2 years at birth and a median income of $25,446. Marin County scored the highest overall on the human development scale at 7.45, while Lake County in north-central California ranked lowest at 3.39.
The study suggests some of the deepest divides occur geographically, both between counties and within them. The study lists five subsections of California: the One Percent, Elite Enclave, Main Street, Struggling, and Disenfranchised. With “high levels of human development” (HD) but “an increasingly tenuous grip on middle-class life,” Santa Barbara and similarly ranked counties were considered in a class of Main Street California, or 39 percent of all state residents.
Within the county, quality of life varies noticeably. Residents in Santa Barbara and neighboring cities scored a HD index of 5.86, compared to 5.16 for Lompoc, Buellton, Solvang, and Guadalupe, and 3.99 for Santa Maria and Orcutt. The North County cities have lower average life expectancies, fewer higher-education degrees, and smaller incomes than their South County neighbors. Inter-county disparities are the California norm, however; Los Angeles County, for example, boasts one of the highest neighborhood scores (8.61 at Redondo Beach) and the state’s lowest (2.14 in South Central and Watts).
The study found that Californians live longer and wealthier lives than the average American, but face higher rates of poverty and higher housing costs. The study also demonstrated divides racially and sexually: in California, Asian Americans enjoy an almost double HD index ranking compared to Latinos (7.39 to 4.09), while California women live longer and more educated lives than California men, but earn less on average. The study lists no specific demographic data for S.B. County.