Silicon Valley

2021 Silicon Valley Pain Index: Racial and Social Class Inequality on the Rise

NBC Universal, Inc.

During the pandemic, racial and social class inequality increased dramatically, according to this year’s Silicon Valley Pain Index.

The annual report by San Jose State University's Human Rights Institute looks at everything from housing to education to incomes in Santa Clara County.

Among the stark findings was that during the pandemic thousands more people ended up living on the streets. The homeless population in the county continues to grow, with more than 11,000 people living on the streets in 2020. According to the pain index, that’s an increase of 9%.

Homeless advocate Robert Aguirre fears that number will soon increase.

"Those numbers are going to go way up higher as a result of more and more people becoming evicted," he said.

SJSU sociology professor Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton is the lead author of the 2021 pain index. His report found 197 homeless people died on the streets in 2020, which is up 22% compared to 2019.

The pain index also found that for nearly one in every four people in the county, hunger is a persistent problem.

"Right now in Silicon Valley, over 20% or close to 20% of our people are food insecure," he said. "That means they're hungry. They don't have enough food to eat. Second Harvest Food Bank – they're doing amazing work – 500,000 clients a month."

Myers-Lipton said while a lack of affordable housing and food insecurity were already issues before the pandemic, COVID-19 has made it even worse for struggling families, especially in the Latinx and Vietnamese communities.

"We're not headed in the right direction," he said.

The pain index examined 60 reports and also found persistent gender and racial gaps in hiring in the tech industry in Silicon Valley.

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