Silicon Valley Lags Behind Other Tech Centers in Economic Growth and Long-Term Performance
SAN JOSE, Calif.—A report released today by United Service Workers West (USWW), calls on the tech industry to use their influence and expertise to reverse the rising trend toward income inequality in the Silicon Valley. The report, “Poverty in the Midst of Plenty: The Security Industry and Rising Income Inequality in Silicon Valley,” juxtaposes Silicon Valley’s remarkable wealth against the region’s security officers, most of whom struggle to earn enough to make ends meet.
The report was released at a town hall on income inequality that featured new research from U.C. Davis professor Chris Benner comparing Silicon Valley to other high tech centers. According to Dr. Benner, poverty levels in Silicon Valley have grown by nearly 50%, over the last three decades compared to only 5% in Raleigh, another well-known high-tech region, even though Silicon Valley has outperformed other regions on earnings.
According to the report, the Silicon Valley recently ranked second-highest in concentration of wealthy people with 16 percent of Santa Clara County households making at least $191,000 each year, putting them in the top 5 percent of income earners. However, the region’s security officers do not share in the region’s prosperity. The median hourly wage for a security officer in the Silicon Valley is $14.89 an hour, with many making $9–$12 an hour. If full-time work is available, the mean annual wage officers earn is $32, 850. However, full-time work often isn’t to be found and contracted officers interviewed at Apple and Google report their employers keep them at reduced hours (ironically called “flex-time”) on purpose and avoid providing any benefits.
Even those who are offered full-time work, earn too little to make ends meet in the Silicon Valley. According to the Insight Center for Community Economic Development for a family of four, covering basic needs such as food, rent, child care and transportation comes to almost $90,000 a year. Median home prices alone rank at $550,000 a year in Santa Clara County and $635,000 in San Mateo—the two main counties encompassed in the Silicon Valley. Rents for the region average just less than $2,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.