Frequently Asked Questions


RACE COUNTS is an initiative launched by Advancement Project California, USC PERE, PICO California and California CALLS that includes a comprehensive online tool ranking all 58 counties by seven issue areas critical to California’s future to paint a comprehensive picture of racial disparity in California. The initiative also includes a launch report and quarterly issue reports.


Why is RACE COUNTS needed?

As California’s racial makeup and needs have completely transformed over the past 40 years, many of our public institutions and policies remain stuck in the past. RACE COUNTS provides the data necessary to provide community organizations with the resources they need to frame these conversations and advance much needed improvements in our public safety, economy, health and governance.


Who created RACE COUNTS?

RACE COUNTS was created by Advancement Project California in partnership with California Calls, PICO California and USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. In addition, the initiative was informed by input from more than 80 organizations across the state. Additional statewide partners include Alliance of Californians for Community Engagement, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Chrissie M. Castro & Associates, Free Our Dreams, Mobilize the Immigrant Vote and PolicyLink. For a full list of partners, please visit


Who is funding RACE COUNTS?

Race Counts was made possible by support from: The California Wellness Foundation, The California Endowment, Rosenberg Foundation, and Sierra Health Foundation.


How is RACE COUNTS different from other measures?

RACE COUNTS paints a more complete picture of racial equity in California than has ever been available because of the 3D analysis of performance, disparity and impact: performance is how well people are doing; disparity is how well racial groups are doing compared to each other; impact is how many people are affected.


Interpreting the Data


What was our methodology?

We leverage all three dimensions — performance, disparity, impact — to tell the real story of racial disparity in California. The mix of performance, disparity and impact goes beyond current analysis in the field. We can, for the first time, quantify racial disparity, allowing us to say one county is more racially disparate than another county for an indicator, issue area, or overall. For almost two years, we worked with people on ground and did literature review to focus and inform our indicator list. We calculated new indicators like elected representation rate, teacher diversity and for several indicators made data available by race for the first time. We included a comprehensive list of racial groups including White, Black, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and multiracial populations. We also analyzed data in less populous counties to create a broader view. It’s rare, and we believe important, to have this many issue areas covered in one report along with an interactive tool ( by county and race and with a focus on disparity.


What is our ranking methodology?

To get a comprehensive assessment of how different counties vary, we calculated z-scores, which measure deviation from the statewide mean, for each of the indicators we studied. By averaging together all of these z-scores by issue area, and then for all indicators to obtain a composite index, we arrived at a metric that shows how much better or worse a particular county is doing compared to all other counties in California.


What does performance mean?

Performance is how well all people in a given county are doing. For example, what is the average graduation rate?


How is impact measured?

Impact is how many people are affected and is determined by population. For example, how many people live in a county where graduation rates are high, but Latinos don’t graduate as often as other racial groups?


What is a key indicator, and how was this list determined?

Key indicators are measures that indicate specific performance and disparity in the context of the larger issue area. For example,  3rd grade math proficiency is an indicator of education. To develop a comprehensive list of these measures, we talked to more than 80 partners across the state to identify the seven issue areas and over 40 key indicators critical to California’s future.


How do I cite Race Counts?

To cite Race Counts, please follow the below format:

Advancement Project California; RACE COUNTS,, 2017.


Why is certain data missing for some racial groups and not others?

Data for certain racial groups was not available at the time that this research was compiled. For example, the category “Asian American” is extraordinarily diverse, including groups as disparate as the Japanese-Americans, Hmong communities, Filipinos and more. Advocates have long pushed for federal and state agencies to disaggregate the data they collect for Asian Americans by ethnicity or national original, this research reinforces the urgency of these demands.

Similarly, as Native Americans do not identify as a racial group, in order to provide as accurate a representation as possible for California’s Native populations, we worked with a Native American consultant who conducted focus groups across the state active in the issue areas examined in the RACE COUNTS data analysis.


How often will the data be updated?

The data  will be updated as soon as additional data becomes available. New data from the sources we relied on for this project will be released in January 2018, and we will work to update the site at that time.

Race Counts Key

What are the different ways to view the data?

A single composite scatterplot measures disparity across all issue areas in all counties across the state.

Users can view scatterplots for each of the seven issue areas.

Users can view a scatterplot for each of the indicators.

Each indicator also has dedicated bar charts by state and county broken down by race.

Finally, there are scatterplots measuring disparity for each racial group.


What do the colors on the scatterplots indicate?

The scatterplots throughout RACE COUNTS are color-coded to indicate performance and disparity. The bubbles represent counties and the size of the bubbles represent population/impact:

Green means there are some gains to build upon. This means counties are moving in the right direction but still need work to grow and sustain people of color, especially in the face of looming threats.

Orange means those counties are performing better but highly disparate and leaving people of color behind.

Yellow means all people are performing low and need a leg up to move into the green.

Red means all people are performing low and are highly disparate. These are the counties that require the most work to move into the green.


How are the sizes of the circles on the scatterplots determined?

Circle size is determined by population size and shows impact.