The California Divide

A statewide media collaboration to raise awareness about poverty and income inequality through in-depth storytelling and community outreach.

Many Americans struggle today to afford a satisfactory lifestyle, fueling social and political upheaval. No place is that more apparent than in California, a majority-minority nation-state that has America’s highest rates for poverty and income inequality.

See the full California Divide series and read the latest stories.

More than one-third of California’s 40 million residents lives in poverty or on the brink, with the vast majority in working households. A housing shortage has spiked prices to more than 2.5 times the national average and fueled a crisis in homelessness. Alarmingly, nearly two thirds of California residents today say they’d encourage young people to leave. Meanwhile, upper incomes in California are 72 percent higher than the state median, revealing a gap that is among the nation’s largest.

With reporters throughout the state, the California Divide media collaboration shares the experience of residents navigating today’s social ladder, investigates the private and public paths to a better life and explains solutions and policies that may address the barriers. It engages and informs communities with interactive tools, in-person events and resources to understand the issues.


The California Divide is a collaboration of media organizations representing more than 35 California newspapers. It is directed by a hub editor at CalMatters who works with editors and reporters in local newsrooms to coordinate and share coverage. The partners include:

  • USA Today Network-California, part of the Gannett Co., is hosting a reporter at The Salinas Californian. 
  • McClatchy Co. is hosting two reporters at the Fresno Bee.
  • Media News Group is hosting a reporter at The Mercury News in San Jose.
  • ImpreMedia is hosting a reporter at La Opinión in Los Angeles.

Other newsrooms will also participate in parts of the project.


The journalists and reporting for The California Divide project are funded through individual donations and foundation grants to CalMatters. Specific support for the project comes from:

  • The James Irvine Foundation
  • Report for America
  • The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation
  • Stephen Silberstein
  • Ann and John Doerr
  • Howard Wollner


  • Marla Cone, hub editor. Marla is a deputy editor at CalMatters based in Los Angeles. She previously was senior editor/science at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a senior editor at National Geographic Magazine and an environmental reporter at the Los Angeles Times for 18 years.
  • David Lesher, project director. David is editor and co-founder of CalMatters based in Sacramento. He is a former think tank director and former reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times.
  • Jackie Botts, reporter. Jackie is a reporter at CalMatters based in Sacramento. She is a member of Report for America and received her graduate degree in journalism from Stanford University.
  • Erica Hellerstein, reporter. Erica is a reporter at The Mercury News in San Jose. She is an award-winning investigative journalist and received her graduate degree from UC Berkeley.
  • Manuela Tobias, reporter. Manuela is a reporter at the Fresno Bee. She is a former staff writer for PolitiFact and a graduate of Georgetown University.
  • Jacqueline Garcia, reporter. Jacqueline is a reporter at La Opinión in Los Angeles who has covered myriad issues, including immigration, politics and education. She previously reported for Hispanic Link News Service in Washington D.C.
  • Kate Cimini, reporter. Kate is a reporter at The Californian in Salinas. Her work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, VICE ESPN, the Houston Chronicle, USA Today and others.

Each participating news organization has appointed a lead editor to coordinate coverage with the project:

  • McClatchy: Robert Salladay and Robert Parsons
  • Media News Group: Rebecca Salner
  • USA TODAY NETWORK: Chelcey Adami
  • La Opinión: Agustin Duran