Income growth: If growth were inclusive, lower-wage workers would see their incomes rising.

Key Trends in the Bay Area

  • Full-time workers with income in the bottom half of the income distribution in the Nine-County Bay Area saw their incomes decline or stagnate between 2000 and 2015, while workers at the 80th percentile and above saw their incomes increase.
  • Income for workers at the 10th percentile dropped 13 percent between 2000 and 2015, while income for workers at the 90th percentile increased 13 percent.
  • In all nine counties in the Bay Area, income for workers at the 10th percentile declined between 2000 and 2015: from -17 percent in Solano County to -2 percent in San Francisco County.
  • Top earners in the Bay Area (those at the 90th percentile) experienced significantly higher income growth (13 percent) than in the state overall (5 percent increase).

Drivers of Inequity

The Bay Area is an economic powerhouse at the epicenter of the digital revolution, yet this robust economic growth is not being broadly shared. Mirroring national trends, our regional economy is increasingly polarized between high-wage, knowledge-economy jobs and low-wage service sector jobs, while the middle-wage jobs that have typically served as stepping stones into the middle class for workers without college degrees are disappearing. Income inequality has increased dramatically in the Bay Area since 1980 as high-wage workers have seen tremendous income gains but other workers’ wages have stagnated or declined. Racial and gender inequity is baked in to uneven income growth as well since workers of color and female workers are segregated into the lowest-paid occupations and sectors.

Strategies

Invest in people: Strategies to foster economic security for all

  • Raise the floor on low-wage work by increasing the minimum wage, enacting living-wage laws, requiring paid sick days, ending wage theft, strengthening workers’ rights to organize, and ensuring fair scheduling
  • Build career ladders for low-wage workers to access higher-paid positions through sectoral workforce development and training programs and apprenticeships.
  • Create pathways for people facing barriers to employment to access good jobs through job-focused skills training, pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships leading to placements, and targeted/local hiring programs; and eliminate barriers to employment such as criminal history questions.
  • Target economic development and workforce efforts to grow high-opportunity sectors that provide pathways for people without four-year degrees.
  • Establish standards to ensure public investments create good jobs and economic opportunities.
  • Protect people from wealth-stripping by limiting the proliferation of alternative, high-cost financial service providers, eliminating the overuse of fines and fees, and providing access to affordable financial services and benefits.

Strategy in Action

Minimum wage in California will reach $15/hour by 2023, but localities are doing more now. In 2016, California legislators passed Senate Bill 3 that will increase the state’s minimum wage by $1/hour each year until it reaches $15/hour. As of the beginning of 2019, 18 cities in the Bay Area, such as Berkeley, San Francisco, Milpitas, and Palo Alto, have a higher minimum wage than the state. And many more will continue to increase their minimum wages in the coming years. Learn more.

 

Photo: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr 

In Their Own Words...

“ While I’m in this program I’m going to learn all I can, be the best I can, and earn as many state certifications as possible.”

— Michael Skeeters, San José

After serving an eight-year prison sentence, Michael was looking for an opportunity to become a commercial electrician. He learned about Working Partnership’s Trades Orientation Program at a reentry center, and immediately signed up for the program which helped him get a three-year apprenticeship as a low-voltage electrical apprentice. He is now earning a living wage with full health benefits and a pension, and may continue on to become a commercial electrician when he is finished.

 

Photo: Felix Uribe

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