While the Inland Empire and the Central Valley were the fastest growing regions of the state in the last decade, that exurban growth has slowed to a halt.
Based in San Bernardino in what is known as the Inland Empire (along with Riverside County), Jennifer Medina provides insight into the vast economic differences between west and east. The region "posted an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent in March. Compared with Orange County, on the more prosperous, western side of California's vertical divide with an unemployment rate of 8 percent, it can feel like another world.... El Centro, on the state's southeast edge, has the highest unemployment rate for any metropolitan area in the country, nearly 27 percent."
Growth based on housing alone is unsustainable.
"While suburbs in the eastern parts of the state were some of the fastest-growing areas in the nation in the last decade, that growth has slowed to a near halt. Hans Johnson, a researcher with the Public Policy Institute of California, explains that "people were just following the building of roofs, so what you end up with in a bust, areas that were dependent on growth suffer tremendously when it dries up."
Stephen Levy, the director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy adds that "places that existed just for housing are not going to come back anytime soon."
"The differences between the west and east are not limited to the economy; several studies have shown that the coastal areas are more politically liberal than their inland counterparts. New environmental laws, for example, may be embraced in cities focused on preserving the beach, but viewed as anathema to some inland political leaders who see regulations as a path to driving businesses out of the state."