San Jose

Annual Silicon Valley Pain Index Highlights Growing Wealth Inequality

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

San Jose State University's annual Silicon Valley Pain Index this year shows almost half of the children in the region come from families who do not make enough to pay the basic bills and put food on the table.

The report is a powerful look at the challenges facing one of the wealthiest areas in America.

This year's pain index is also a warning shot of sorts. While many Silicon Valley companies are booming post pandemic, the have-nots are being left with even less.

In San Jose's Alum Rock School District, where many of the families live at or below the poverty line, anyone under 18 is allowed to walk in during summer school for a free meal whether they are enrolled in the program or not.

"It's probably the only place where they can get warm food," said Julieta Flores, Alum Rock summer school lead. "So we want to be able to have that and do that during the summer. I think it's very important."

This year’s Silicon Valley Pain Index shows the gap between the poor and the wealthy is widening. NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai spoke to Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton, author of the Pain Index and professor at SJSU for some insight.

Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton, lead author of the 2022 Silicon Valley Pain Index, said "the wealth inequality is growing."

The report points to persistent inequality in booming Silicon Valley. This year that includes drastic income declines for Latinos, African Americans, and Indigenous Americans.

But the bombshell from the report this year is 46% of children in the valley come from families who need help just to make ends meet.

"They can't provide the basics," Lipton said. "Can't provide food, shelter, transportation, and health care without the support of the government or a nonprofit organization."

The report also found inflation is only making a bad situation worse because it means every dollar will not buy as much as it used to. That reason alone is why the Alum Rock School District said initiatives like the summer school lunch program are critical.

"Especially with the pandemic," Flores said. "A lot of our families did lose their jobs. And now that everything is coming back, we did find out that a lot of families are taking extra jobs because the pay is so low."

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