An annual report released this month by the Human Rights Institute at San Jose State University calls attention to the persistent inequalities in the South Bay and the astronomical concentration of wealth in the hands of a small number of households and companies.

A graphic outlines the key highlights of the 2023 Silicon Valley Pain Index produced by the San Jose State University Human Rights Institute. (SJSU via Prachi Singh/Bay City News)

Scott Myers-Lipton, a sociology professor and lead author of the 2023 Silicon Valley Pain Index, highlighted takeaways from the fourth annual report:

  • 0.001 percent of households in Silicon Valley own $260 billion in total wealth ($50 billion in liquid assets or cash, which is six times more than the total wealth of the bottom 50 percent of the region, or about 500,000 households, combined); and
  • Inequalities found in previous years’ research continue to persist and have worsened in areas that include fentanyl overdoses, food insecurity, eviction filings, graduation rates, the number of families experiencing homelessness, average monthly mortgage payments and the wage gap.

In 2021, Google, Adobe, Intel, and Zoom donated around $72 million to local nonprofits, which was about .02 percent of their total revenue.

William Armaline, founding director of the institute and co-author of the 2023 report, said that the pain index should be understood as an annual report based on a review of available data and research from around the region and how Silicon Valley, roughly defined as Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, is performing according to international human rights standards.

The pain index was inspired by the Katrina Pain Index following the 2005 hurricane and later the death of George Floyd and to illustrate the racial discrimination and income/wealth inequality in Silicon Valley.

In a world of hurt

This year’s report is a meta-analysis of over 60 recent studies and reports and is composed of over 110 statistics.

According to the report, San Jose ranks first in youth homelessness in the U.S. with a rate of 85 unhoused young adults, aged 18-24, for every 100,000 residents; 16 percent of African Americans are in poverty in the region; 28 percent of households do not earn enough money to meet their most basic needs without assistance (public and private) and the wage gap for college-educated people between men and women is $59,000.

The cover of the 2023 Silicon Valley Pain Index report. The full report can be downloaded here. (SJSU Human Rights Institute)

The numbers represent lives, said Jahmal Williams, director of Advocacy for Racial Justice at San Jose State. He said it is important to look at what decisions were made in the past, are being made now and can be made to address the structural issues in the region.

Myers-Lipton said he will send the report to every supervisor, city council member, state representative in our region.

“I’ll send it to them, say, hey, we’re glad to meet with you,” he said. “I’m always shocked that we hardly get any response. I think in the history, three people have reached that conversation out of all the ones I’ve sent, and then one decided to do something out of those three conversations.”

Myers-Lipton expressed gratitude to state Sen. Dave Cortese and his staff for a policy solution to youth homelessness in California. The index report noted that Senate Bill 333 will provide $1,000 guaranteed basic income payments to graduating high school seniors experiencing housing insecurity to assist in the transition to higher education, job training or employment.

If Silicon Valley was a nation, it would be deemed politically unstable, said Myers-Lipton, quoting Russell Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a nonprofit that had presented a report on the huge wealth disparity in Silicon Valley last year.

Myers-Lipton hopes to get more responses and policy changes. He encourages people to read the pain index and reach out to councilmembers, and supervisors and ask to get the numbers changed.

“Time to act is now,” Myers-Lipton said.

Prachi is a Dow Jones News Fund intern at Bay City News. She is a journalism graduate from University of Southern California. She previously worked at Annenberg Media as a Multimedia Journalist and the Managing Editor. Prachi has covered social justice, climate and human interest stories. She is interested in written and visual storytelling.