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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Inequity in Silicon Valley persists for people of color

inequality in silicon valley

By Bay City Newsoriginally published in San Jose Spotlight.

Life expectancy is decreasing, the poor are getting poorer and the richest in Silicon Valley are prospering.

The 2022 Silicon Valley Pain Index report highlights how Santa Clara County generated $340 billion in gross domestic product in 2021, a 4.4 percent increase from 2020, while nearly half of the children in Silicon Valley live in households that can't make ends meet on their incomes. 

Life expectancy for black and Latino residents has also worsened, while the region's top 10 percent of earners control three-quarters of the collective wealth, the study shows.

"Last time it was bad to horrible," lead author and San Jose State University sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton told San Jose Spotlight. "We're still at terrible ?levels? and, in some cases, getting worse, such as life expectancy and wealth inequality."

African-American and Latino residents experienced a decline in median annual income and life expectancy last year, while their white and Asian counterparts saw increases in median income and a much lower rate of declining life expectancy, according to the report released Monday.

The Silicon Valley Pain Index, which focuses on Santa Clara and San Jose County, is produced by the Human Rights Institute at San Jose State University. Some of the data used in the report also includes San Mateo County. 

The annual study focuses on racial discrimination and income inequality in the region. The report, first released in 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, was inspired by an index compiled on New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The report aims to use data and reports to reveal structured inequalities and urge elected officials to take action. The paper highlights the 2020 prevalence of white supremacy and a widening wealth inequality gap in the South Bay. 

Meanwhile, last year's report showed how disparities have worsened, with indicators such as hunger, homelessness and income inequality on the rise.

The latest study exposes the lack of progress in addressing growing wealth gaps and racial disparities, especially in the private sector, where 73 percent of technology companies have no black people on executive teams. At Apple, there are no executives or senior managers who are African American, Pacific Islander and Native American, according to the report.

"The data speaks for itself and says we have deep disparities that are getting worse, not better," Russell Hancock, executive director of Joint Venture Silicon Valley and president of the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies, told San Jose Spotlight. 

"Silicon Valley, for all this legendary dynamism, is also a place where prosperity is not widely shared."

Black and Latino residents struggle

Approximately 11.7 percent of African-American residents and 11 percent of Latino residents live in poverty in Silicon Valley, compared to 5.3 percent of white residents. 

Among the Asian population, whose average annual income increased by $4,933 last year, Vietnamese residents are most likely to live in poverty at 12 percent. 

The median annual income of black residents in the region fell by $2,593 last year, the report shows. Latino residents also saw a pay cut of $404 on average. 

White residents had an annual income increase of 3,046 on average, and the population continues to earn the most with an average income of 146,690.

Meanwhile, Silicon Valley's tech giants thrived during the pandemic. Companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and Netflix saw their profits soar by billions since 2020, with Apple reaching $3 trillion in valuation this year.

Walter Wilson, executive director of the Minority Business Consortium and a member of the NAACP's state executive committee, said the study comes as no surprise to many black residents in Silicon Valley, who saw their life expectancy drop by 2.6 years, from 76.4 years in 2019 to 73.8 last year. year. Many experience racism and discrimination in the workplace and in their personal lives on a daily basis, Wilson said.

"You would think that in this era after the assassination of George Floyd, a lot of U.S. companies are leaning in and doing everything they can to address racism," Wilson told San Jose Spotlight. "We don't see that happening in high tech in a way that's happening in other industries across the country."

Wilson points to public and private efforts to build an African American Cultural Center in San Jose as a good step in the right direction, but also noted that the lack of action and cultural changes to protect and value black residents will continue to hurt the population.

Trend on the wrong track

Latino residents, whose life expectancy dropped by 3.1 years, from 80.5 years in 2019 to 77.4 in 2021, were also more likely to be subjected to excessive force by the San Jose Police Department, the study shows. 

More than 1,520 Latino residents reported injuries caused by local police between 2017 and 2021, compared to 565 reports from white residents.

"Traditional policing doesn't work," Jose Valle, a Silicon Valley De-Bug organizer, told San Jose Spotlight. "Why do we have a disproportionate number of people who are Mexican Chicanos and Mexican Americans getting hurt this way by police? That's what surprises me."

Valle advocates alternatives to policing, including community projects to help reduce violence and property crime.

The report also highlights the current housing crisis, where residents need to earn $54 per hour to pay the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Jose, and the growing homelessness crisis, where more than 10,000 people in Santa Clara County are living. sleeping on the streets.

Last year's pain index inspired some action by elected officials, as State Senator Dave Cortese recently introduced a bill that would guarantee income for homeless high school students.

"It's significant that we're seeing this," Hancock said. "But we'll have to wait and see where this takes us."

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