San Jose residents are grappling with the highest level of inflation in 41 years, forcing many to make hard choices about food, travel and housing—furthering the disparity between the haves and have-nots.
On Wednesday, the Labor Department reported consumer prices have risen 9.1% since June of last year. Rising costs have affected nearly every sector.
The price of gas is up 50.1% in the Bay Area year over year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Utilities like natural gas and electricity are up 33.6% and 19%, respectively. Food prices are up 10.8%, with cereals and bakery products up 13.6%. Household furnishings and supplies have jumped 9.5%.
For some Silicon Valley residents, high food and gas prices mean lifestyle changes.
Claudia Daw, 95, and her 65-year-old daughter of the same name, from Santa Clara County, said inflation is preventing them from pursuing their favorite pastime: rock collecting, also known as rockhounding. Driving is too expensive, her daughter said, which prevents them from visiting family over the summer.
“It’s painful,” the younger Daw told San José Spotlight. “We have to work long trips into our budget. Our food bills have also tripled in cost.”
Inflation is hitting the region at a time when property values are soaring and thousands of homeless people are sleeping on Santa Clara County streets. According to a recent report, the top quarter of Silicon Valley earners hold 92% of the region’s wealth, with the top 10% holding 75% of all the wealth. The average annual income in Silicon Valley was $170,000 last year, and the median income was $138,000—more than double the national median. But the average income for regional service workers was $31,000.
Yige Kebede, 25, a rideshare driver who moved to San Jose in 2016, isn’t able to visit his home of Gondar, Ethiopia because flights are too expensive. To make ends meet, he’s cut down on meat and is traveling less.
Kelly Hensley, 38, a barber from downtown San Jose, said he goes grocery shopping less frequently and buys less meat. Rising costs are forcing him to increase his prices at the barber shop, he said, noting many of his regular customers are showing up less frequently.
“ I just go for the cheap stuff,” Hensley said. “On my days off, I used to hop in the car and drive around. Now I don’t.”
For some residents, however, inflation is raising larger concerns.
Veronica Galvez, 50, a small business owner who lives in San Jose’s West San Carlos neighborhood, said she is cutting down on “all the extras.” She recently purchased a more cost-efficient vehicle, and said she isn’t going out to eat. She’s constantly on the lookout for sales, and visits multiple supermarkets to compare prices for specific items. Galvez said inflation is exacerbating the inequality already present in Silicon Valley.
“In this valley, there is such a big gap between the haves and have-nots,” Galvez said.
Faizah Keval, a mother of two from San Jose, is thinking about her children’s futures.
They were planning on visiting family in Texas, but decided not to because of gas prices. A parkour class—a sport that involves acrobatics and jumping over obstacles—which her son wants to enroll in is also off the table. Even getting basic goods like milk, Keval said, is starting to take a toll as prices go up.
“At this point, we have to make a choice about whether we can even live here, or raise a family here,” Keval told San José Spotlight. “We’re thinking of moving out of the state to be able to make a living and ensure that our children will be able to live comfortably.”
Contact Jack Delaney at [email protected].