Most of the attention surrounding Proposition 209 has focused on the University of California’s admissions process, but the initiative also eliminated the use of race and gender in state contracting and hiring decisions.
One independent study shows a steep drop in Caltrans contracts to minority-owned businesses, while state records show a small dip in the state’s hiring of blacks and women. Latino hires remained flat, even as their population grew in the state.
The exact impact is difficult to assess because after Prop. 209 passed, then-Gov. Pete Wilson issued an executive order telling all state agencies that they should no longer collect data about race or gender.
However, a study released in August by the nonprofit Discrimination Research Center in Berkeley found that the dollar value of contracts going to “minority business enterprises” for Caltrans projects with federal funding fell to $75 million from $102 million since 1996.
The drop from prior years is even steeper. Nine years before Prop. 209 passed, minority-owned businesses received, on average, 16 percent of the award revenue. In 2005, that had dropped to 8 percent.
Monique Morris, director of the Discrimination Research Center in Berkeley, said that with the growth of minorities in California, it is vital that minorities participate in the economy.
“It is not even worse than it was 10 years ago—it is worse than it was 20 years ago,” she said. “You are essentially turning your back on the people who can help keep our economy going strong.”
But Ward Connerly, who pushed Prop. 209, said the system worked as a form of “corporate welfare” before the measure passed.
“Now they are clamoring that they can’t survive because Prop. 209 took away their opportunity,” Connerly said. “If a contractor doesn’t want to use you, that is a message.”
The state’s hiring of blacks and women also declined slightly in the wake of Prop. 209, according to the State Personnel Board.
Blacks were 12 percent of new state employees hired in 1996, but 10 percent in 2002.
The percent of new state employees who were Latino remained flat at about 20 percent, even as California’s Latino population climbed.