Nearly half of Silicon Valley children need supportive services to survive
Silicon Valley households with children are struggling to make ends meet. Photo courtesy of San Jose Unified School District.

Silicon Valley households with children are struggling to make ends meet, and the data is eye-opening.

Joint Venture Silicon Valley recently released its 2022 Silicon Valley Index, shedding light on the stark challenges these families face. In Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, approximately 46% of children live in households that don’t earn enough money to cover basic needs, the study said.

Russell Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley and president of the Silicon Valley Institute of Regional Studies, said these families wouldn’t survive without assistance.

“It’s staggering, he told San José Spotlight. “Here we are, in the world’s most wealthy region, but almost half our children are living in households that aren’t self-sufficient.”

In Silicon Valley, Hancock said 244,000 of 534,000 children, or more than 45%, live in households below the standard of living. The majority of these children—51%—are Latino, while 25% are Asian Pacific Islander. Costs add up with needed additional housing, food, clothing, school and day care, he said.

Joint Venture defines Silicon Valley as Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, and part of Alameda County including Fremont. The report’s data comes from a variety of sources, including the census and California’s Employment Development Department.

Officials from Joint Venture Silicon Valley, which analyzes regional issues affecting the economy and quality of life, found wealth disparity is growing. While jobs are back to pre-pandemic levels in the region, income inequality has widened, inflation has skyrocketed and housing prices have soared.

Almost 33% of all Silicon Valley households do not earn enough money to meet their most basic needs without assistance, according to the study, compared with 30% in San Francisco and 32% in the general Bay Area. Households with children headed by limited-English speakers face the greatest struggles, with an estimated nine out of 10 living below self-sufficiency levels. This includes 87% of Latina single mothers and 82% of families with four or more children.

Hancock said in Silicon Valley, a couple without children needs to make a minimum of $18.54 per hour per adult to be self-sufficient, but it would barely cover a small apartment and basic needs.

In 2021, a family of four with two school-aged children would have to earn $33.13 per hour per adult to meet its basic needs. In Santa Clara County, a single adult with an infant and preschooler would need to make $76.75 per hour to survive, according to the study.

“Having a job isn’t enough,” Hancock said. “Just because you’re employed doesn’t mean you’re making it. It’s not the job that matters as much as the income.”

Wendi Mahaney-Gurahoo, chief community impact officer for FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, which supports the healthy development of children through age five, said the pandemic exacerbated and highlighted existing problems.

“Families with children are doing worse than everybody else,” she told San José Spotlight. “Parents are working, but can’t afford to pay for basic essentials. They’re having to access what the nonprofit agencies provide or they’re not doing things like taking their kids to the dentist.”

FIRST 5 distributed 3 million diapers in two years during the pandemic, she said. It also distributed 13,824 cans of baby formula.

Mahaney-Gurahoo said family child care providers, many who are women of color, don’t earn much and that more than 300 day cares closed in Santa Clara County during the pandemic. According to FIRST 5’s annual report from March 2020 to September 2021, the organization awarded $5.28 million in stabilization funding to 528 child care providers. She said FIRST 5 also partnered with the city to provide $11 million in child care scholarships to low-income families with children under age five.

Mahaney-Gurahoo said private infant care can cost almost $20,000 a year. She said with young children, it’s more cost effective to stay home and as a result, women left the workforce during the pandemic.

“It’s a perfect storm,” Mahaney-Gurahoo said. “It’s all the things that have always been true and a tidal wave of increasing need.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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