Basic family needs: The high cost of living makes it hard for many Bay Area workers to meet their families’ basic needs.

Insights & Analyses

  • The percentage of workers in the nine-county Bay Area earning enough to meet their basic needs decreased from 74 percent in 2014 to 62 percent in 2020.
  • In the nine-county Bay Area, 35 percent of Latinx workers earn enough to meet their basic needs — the lowest share of all racial and ethnic groups.
  • The ability to cover basic family needs also varies by gender: 31 percent of Latinx women and 32 percent of Pacific Islander women who work earn enough to meet basic needs, compared to 78 percent of white men who work.
  • San Mateo County has the highest share of residents living in low-resource neighborhoods.

Drivers of Inequity

Regional income inequality has worsened over the past 40 years, with widening gaps between the lowest and highest incomes since 1980. While the Bay Area has become home to a growing number of high-wage jobs in tech, engineering, and finance, workers in low-wage service sectors have faced increasingly difficult challenges to sustain themselves and their families. The region-wide housing crisis has led to rapid increases in rent in recent decades, leading many more residents to suffer from housing burden. Having a for-profit healthcare system also means that families can bear enormous costs for the well-being of their children, and pre-K and college tuition costs make education an expensive affair for many families. Altogether, inequitable employment opportunities and the high costs of living make affording basic family needs a daunting task for many Bay Area households.


Invest in people: Strategies to ensure economic security for all

Strategy in Action

Sonoma County pilots a guaranteed basic income program. In 2023, First 5 Sonoma County launched a guaranteed basic income pilot to support low-income families with young children financially recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Funded by American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from Sonoma County and the Cities of Healdsburg, Petaluma, and Santa Rosa, as well as contributions from Corazón Healdsburg, the pilot program provides 305 local families with a monthly payment of $500 for two years. While there are no limits or requirements attached to the payments, eligible families had to earn a household income below 185% of the federal poverty level, have a pregnancy or at least one child under the age of six, and have been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly 6,500 families applied for the 305 slots, indicating the widespread need for financial assistance among families with young children. Learn more.

Photo: Luis Quintero

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