When it comes to ethnicity, income, and education, Santa Barbara is very much a tale of two counties, the south being whiter, wealthier, and more educated, and the north being more Latino, poorer, and less schooled. Detailing this gap to a nearly packed house in the county supervisors’ chambers on Tuesday was Dr. Peter Rupert of UCSB’s Economic Forecast Project. At the instigation of philanthropist Tom Parker, Rupert was roused to bring the Santa Barbara Community Indicators Project out of the mothballs in which it had languished the past 14 years. The Indicators Project was an effort to take not just the economic pulse of the community, but an environmental, educational, and sociological measurement as well.

The good news is that the air is considerably cleaner now than it was 14 years ago, but the use of pesticides ​— ​mostly for strawberry cultivation ​— ​spiked in 2012 and hasn’t really dropped since. Violent and property crimes are down, but rape and child abuse rates are up. Although poverty is more heavily concentrated in North County, 50 percent of residents countywide make $75,000 or less, and 20 percent make enough to afford a median-priced home. Ninety percent of schoolkids in Santa Maria participate in school lunch programs; in South County it’s 50 percent.

It’s hoped the data, available online later this week, will be of special interest and utility to Santa Barbara’s booming nonprofit sector, which according to the report broke the billion-dollar barrier in terms of cash donations for the first time this year. Several years ago, it was only $600 million. That startling factoid, however, doesn’t calculate the hundreds of millions in pharmaceutical donations made every year to Direct Relief, which by itself exceeded $1.2 billion in donations. The international disaster relief agency ​— ​created 70 years ago in Santa Barbara ​— ​is now responding to three catastrophic hurricanes and two massive earthquakes at the same time. Direct Relief currently occupies 75,000 square feet of real estate but is about to move into new headquarters on airport property that are nearly twice that size.

According to the agency’s CFO Bhupi Singh, Direct Relief gives out $25 million to $30 million in drugs to American clinics a year, targeting health-care operations serving those of limited means. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Direct Relief concluded the United States network of health care needed help. As a result, the United States is now the agency’s largest aid recipient.


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