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Community Demographics – San Bernardino County

Anabel Castaneda

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Monday, October 9, 2017

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Community demographics are essential to optimizing public health. Demography is the

collection of data of a population which is used to anticipate problems a community may face or

the needs they may have. They can aid in the establishment of well strategized short and long-

term goals, helps shape programs or policies, and give a point of evaluation. Understanding a

community’s unique dynamics and structure is the point where the statistical information that is

acquired meets social science and strives to predict how certain factors determine health needs

and outcomes for a community. Community demographics is also valuable when evaluating

how it compares to neighboring cities, counties, the states or the nation. As a lifelong resident of

San Bernardino County and an aspiring public health professional, I was curious about how this

county compared to others.

Population dynamics can determine disease patterns within a community. History

demonstrates that we have shifted from managing infectious and acute disease to now chronic

disease. The challenge with population dynamics is that it is fluid and constantly changing.

When considering a population, factors like size, distribution, and composition create diverse

communities. A population size would take into consideration its growth and decline in a

population size. According to the Census vintage year 2016 estimates, San Bernardino County is

home to 2,140,096 residents (Figure 1). By total area, San Bernardino County is the largest

county in the United States. The size of a population has a lot of direct and indirect implications.

Related to public health, for example, the social needs and funding available for a county is

determined by its size. As a result of lack of resources of funding, an area that is considered

overpopulated can result in issues such as malnutrition, high infant mortality, environmental
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degradation, and strain on social services (Coreil 2010). The physical environment that serves a

particular population can also result in issues of food security and access. Community size is a

largely considered demographic but even more closely related to health are the dynamics of that

unique community.

Figure 1

Aside from population size, the composition of a population creates diversity between

communities based on a number of traits which include age distribution, race, sex, education

levels and more. When compared to California and the rest of the nation, San Bernardino

County has a younger population distribution (Figure 2). This would indicate San Bernardino is

a county is a growing population with a high ratio of dependents. This can also suggest

information about San Bernardino county’s fertility rate as a whole which can bring into

consideration public health issues such as family size and dynamics, sex and family education,

access to birth control, prenatal care, and more. Moreover, a population dense in youth

influences education. Larger populations of youth in communities could impact public education

systems with larger class sizes in schools which may impact student achievement. Student

success rates in at the primary school level can determine a student’s self-efficacy which can
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impact their pursuit of higher education. Education is another degree in which population

composition is measured. When compared to the state of California, San Bernardino County has

a 3.2% lower high school graduation rate and a 12.4% lower rate of earning a bachelor’s degree

or higher. Compared to the rest of the nation, high school graduation rates are 8.1% lower and

the probability of earning a bachelor’s degree or higher is 10.8% (Figure 3). Because education

is closely linked to occupation, income, and health outcomes of both an individual and a

community, it is an important consideration for public health policy.

Age Distribution
Age, Under 5

Age, Under 18

Age 65+

0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0%

United States California State San Bernardino County

Figure 2

78.6% 81.8%


40% 31.4% 29.8%


San Bernardino County California State United States
High School Grad+ Bachelors Degree+

Figure 3
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Like education, other major sociodemographic characteristics includes occupation and

income. These are considered quality of life variables (Coreil 2010). Income can determine A

person’s access to resources to meet the basic needs of that individual and the family they

support. Income based on a household size is what puts a person or family “in poverty” relative

to the poverty line of a particular society. Poverty is a strong predictor of health and therefore a

major concern for public health professionals. Figure 4.1 shows the Median Household Income

of San Bernardino County, California State, and the U.S. while Figure 4.2 shows a relationship

between income level and Persons in Poverty. Since each society has different poverty rates

determined by the cost of living of the specific area, the graphs per area are relative yet the

correlation is undeniable. Some of the negative effects of income inequality are seen in rates of

chronic disease, food security, drug use, depression, infant mortality and more. San Bernardino

County has several areas that are considered food deserts and areas that are burdened with high

rates of crime. These factors would limit a person’s access to healthy food and ability to seek

recreation or exercise within their neighborhoods. This impacts social behavior and are lifestyle

related factors that impact long term health outcomes. Lifestyle related determinants can result

in one of the leading causes of chronic illness or mortality such as heart disease, diabetes and

certain types of cancer. Populations living in poverty become more susceptible to these diseases.

Data on socioeconomic status can help policymakers address the health effects of poverty.

Median Household Income Persons in Poverty

$53,433 $53,889

1 2 3 1 2 3

1 = San Bernardino County, 2 = California State, 3 = United States

Figure 4.1 Figure 4.2
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Race in San Bernardino County

Race, Two+ Race, White

Race, Black/ African American
Race, American Indian/ Alaska Native

Race, White alone, not

Race, Asian
Race, Native Hawaiian
Race, Hispanic/ Latino
Race, White alone, not Hispanic/Latino
Race, White
43% Race, Two+
Race, Hispanic/ Latino

Race, American Indian/ Alaska


Race, Asian

Race, Black/ African American

Race, Native Hawaiian

Figure 5

A major category of community demographics includes race and ethnicity. Health

agencies highlight differences between races in morbidity and mortality rates. Racial inequality

can be attributed to factors like social disadvantage and racism. There is no question that some

communities are more socially disadvantaged that others. Figure 5 shows just how diverse San

Bernardino County is where a large portion of the population are minorities. Diverse

communities are culturally rich and dynamic but they also present some challenges for public

health. Programs and interventions that target health issues often have to take into consideration

the culture of the communities they are aiming to serve. Cultural competence is an area that is

growing with evolving policies and trainings about attitudes, skills and behaviors for public

health practitioners (Coreil 2010). Human nature suggests that an individual is more likely to

seek health care or health services from someone they can communicate and relate to. As
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evidence, many health promotion and intervention programs in San Bernardino County are

tailored toward different races and offered in multiple languages so a larger percentage of a

community can take advantage. Figure 6 shows how the racial distribution of San Bernardino

County compares the state of California and the rest of the nation. As a state, the distribution is

more similar than the variance between the U.S. In public health, racial diversity presents a

challenge for us to understand the influence that culture has on a community in order to become

proactive about addressing health disparities.

80% San Bernardino County California State Unites States

Figure 6

Evaluation of demographics of San Bernardino County us likely to create a larger

appreciation for the county. With Census data alone I was able to formulate opinions about the

unique issues that residents of the county may encounter when it comes to health disparities.

This is the initial step in conducting a community needs assessment in order to find and priorities

the issues that can be addressed. People ranging from statisticians, public health professionals,
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community advocates can come together with some of this demographic data to strategize how

the county can be better served. A healthcare professional should consider a few more questions

to ask for data. The majority of the questions would communicate subjective and opinion based

information. It is important to draw information from objective data but also hear directly from

communities in which we serve. Gaining insight from informed residents and stakeholders

within a population can help formulate programs or interventions that members will be invested

in. A public health community needs assessment is an important way to organize around

community populations and their unique health profiles. It is evident, public health planning

relies heavily on demographic indicators.

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Works Cited

Coreil, J. (2010). Social and behavioral foundations of public health (2nd ed.). Los Angeles:


QuickFacts. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2017, from