Survey Says: ‘The Dam Has Burst’ on Unhappiness in L.A. County

A new UCLA study says the issues beleaguering county residents are public safety, education, and the increasing cost of everything

The residents of Los Angeles County are not happy with the area’s quality of life—in fact, it’s the lowest it’s been in seven years, a new UCLA study has found.

Residents are feeling decidedly low about the high cost of living, the state of education and public safety.

Those are some of the results of the latest Quality of Life Index, or QLI, a project of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The survey found that, on a scale of 1 to 100, residents’ satisfaction in nine categories fell remarkably this year—from 58 in 2021 to 53.

It’s the first time the QLI has fallen beneath its midpoint of 55 since the index began in 2016, indicating that a majority of the people here are unhappy with the way their lives and the systems they depend on in L.A. County are functioning.

“For the first time since the inception of this survey, respondents’ ratings dropped in each of the nine categories, and eight of the nine fell to their lowest rating ever,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative, who directs the index.

A major contributor to LA County residents’ increasingly low quality of life are the lingering effects of COVID.

Most respondents, 69 percent, said life has been fundamentally changed by the COVID pandemic.

“COVID has taken its toll on our society in profound ways,” Yaroslavsky said. “This finding—that life has been permanently altered—may be the most profound.”

A third of respondents said their income fell during the pandemic, with 15 percent saying by “a lot” and 16 percent saying by “a little.” Among those who lost income, 33 percent said they fell behind on their rent or mortgage payments.

The pandemic also interrupted the education of respondents’ children. Some 71 percent of parents of school-age kids said they feel their children have been “substantially” hurt either academically or socially by being required to conduct their education remotely. Parents with incomes under $60,000 were the most concerned about this.

But there are many things besides the pandemic to blame for a lower quality of life, from world events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine causing gas prices to skyrocket, to increasing crime rates.

“What the pandemic couldn’t do over the last two years, inflation and increases in violent and property crime succeeded in doing,” Yaroslavsky said. “It appears that the dam has burst this year.”

This year’s QLI was based on interviews conducted in English and Spanish with 1,400 county residents over 30 days beginning March 5.

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