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Stockton, California


Stockton, located in northern California, is the seat of San Joaquin County and one of the state’s 20 largest cities.

During the 1849 Gold Rush, the area around Stockton grew rapidly as a miners’ supply point. In 1869, with the use of irrigation and railroads, the city became a market for farm produce. The San Joaquin River’s deep-water channel, completed in 1933, helped Stockton develop into a major shipping port for many agricultural and manufactured products. Stockton Port’s shipping business continues to grow, now specializing in bulk cargo.

Despite the inland port’s role in economic growth, Stockton faces high rates of crime, poverty, and racial/ethnic income disparities. Sharp geographic divisions also exist, with more affluent residents living in the northwest and low-income residents clustered in the east and south. Recognizing the need for a complete revitalization of Stockton, the city council, the police, and other community stakeholders have launched initiatives to revitalize neighborhoods, reduce crime, and actively engage residents. Many challenges lie ahead, but Stockton residents are fighting to redefine their community.

  • Overview

    Population and Demographics

    Population: 297,223

    U.S. Census Bureau; photography courtesy Flickr user Wayne Hsieh, CC BY-NC 2.0.

  • Context and Actions

    Community Context and Challenges

    • When the housing bubble burst in 2008, Stockton experienced one of the most extreme housing collapses in the nation, leading to the city declaring bankruptcy in 2012.
    • Many low-income residents cannot afford home ownership at all, or even the opportunity to live in housing that is not substandard, as numerous houses are affected by blight, code violations, and disrepair.
    • Currently, more than 16% of Stockton residents are unemployed, compared with 11% in the state and 9% nationally.
    • Crime, poverty, and lack of city services have long plagued South Stockton; the city’s violent crime rates are dramatically higher than the state’s and fewer than 63% of adults say they always feel safe in their neighborhoods.
    • City-level health data is limited, but San Joaquin County—of which Stockton comprises 42%—performs worse than the state and the nation on nearly all health indicators.

    U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2014). 2004–2014 Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics.

    County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. (2015). California San Joaquin County.

    Taking Action

    Community volunteers and government officials in Stockton are collaborating to address poverty and revitalize the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

    With input from stakeholders in government, education, healthcare, and faith-based organizations, as well as from residents of all ages, new coalitions and projects have emerged to address high priority community health needs.

    These baseline reports, created in 2016, track community programs and initiatives in their early stages and measure initial progress only. Future reports will provide more in-depth insights and analysis into this community's efforts to build a Culture of Health.

    Elevating Early Intervention and Education

    Success hinges on the community's involvement and participation in addressing root causes of crime and poverty early on and elevating the importance of education. Local schools and faith-based organizations in particular might play an important role in shaping social norms and life affirming cultural values among youth.

    Reinvent South Stockton Coalition

    In 2015, a City Council member and community representatives created the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition (RSSC) with the goal of empowering residents to transform the community’s safety, education, housing, job creation and health. The RSSC is working with 56 stakeholders, including city government, the Stockton United School District and PolicyLink (an Oakland, California-based research and advocacy organization) to develop a long-term strategy for South Stockton. The coalition is organized into committees based on priorities such as education, health, housing and safety. It also includes a youth council.

    Barriers to Housing and Homeownership

    For $2,126, the average monthly rental cost of a studio apartment in San Francisco, a four-bedroom rental house with 10 times the square footage is available in Stockton. However, affordable housing remains a challenge for many. In 2009, 47% of residents’ housing costs accounted for 30% or more of their total monthly income, compared with 45% in the state and 35% in the nation. Many minority and low-income residents of Stockton cannot afford homeownership at all or even the opportunity to live in housing that is not substandard, as numerous houses in South Stockton—which is home to one-third of the city's population—are affected by blight, code violations and disrepair.

    Stockton Trauma Recovery Center

    The nonprofit Fathers and Families of San Joaquin opened the Stockton Trauma Recovery Center in June 2015. The center's multilingual staff provide free treatment and therapy for victims and families affected by violent trauma. They also assist trauma survivors to file applications with these state’s Victim Compensation Program to help cover medical bills, funeral expenses, personal and home security, wage loss, relocation and crime scene cleanup.

  • Going Forward

    Stockton is a community in flux, working to redefine itself yet facing significant challenges and barriers in its efforts to address decades of residents facing poverty, limited educational and employment opportunities, and violence. Additional surveillance, data, and information gathering will examine how initiatives to revitalize and rebuild this community are impacting the economic and social inequities many Stockton residents face and, in turn, how these affect health and well-being outcomes.

    Ongoing questions include the following:

    • To what extent have the investments in Stockton’s police department shown success in reducing gang activity and the rate of violent crimes? How have community engagement strategies enhanced traditional policing practices?
    • How will stakeholders, including those in the RSSC, engage and empower Stockton residents from the most troubled areas to take back their communities from gangs and those that wish to control residents through fear and intimidation?
    • Which efforts are showing the greatest success in breaking the cycle of poverty and low educational attainment? Why are these efforts effective, and how are they engaging residents and community-based organizations?
    • What impact will the “super commuters,” who spend more hours away from Stockton than at home, have on the city? What approaches can leaders take to build a sense of community with these residents?
    • What role are faith-based organizations and schools playing in engaging youth and addressing root causes of crime and poverty?
  • Downloads

    Community Snapshot Report

    Community Portrait Report

    Community Landscape Report