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2022 Silicon Valley Index: Top 25% hold 92% of the wealth

cover imageEmployment back to pre-pandemic levels

Tech: drove growth, fueled $14 trillion market cap; garnered more IPOs than since 2000
Health and wealth disparities stratify region; population declined

February 15, 2022 — An incongruous set of contradictions are still a common theme in Silicon Valley even as the region eyes an emergence from the pandemic, according to the 2022 Silicon Valley Index, released today by Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Institute for Regional Studies. Employment rebounded to pre-pandemic numbers, and tech jobs went up 4%. Venture capital hit new records, start-up activity was brisk, and there were more IPOs than in any other year this century.

At the same time, health and wealth disparities were magnified and stratified by race and ethnicity. “Silicon Valley is showcasing our fabled dynamism but is also exposing a whopping set of fallibilities,” said Russell Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture and President of the Institute.

Hispanic residents are two and a half times more likely as white, non-Hispanic residents to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and are three times as likely to die from it. Hispanic or Latino workers make an average wage that is 64% less than similarly-educated white residents; Black or African American workers earn 50% less.

“We’re generating wealth faster than ever before – personal assets, real estate, private company valuations, public company market cap, and in a million other ways,” said Rachel Massaro, Joint Venture Vice President and Director of Research for the Institute. “This report shows us that many in our region working full time are barely scraping by. Explain Silicon Valley to any kindergartner, and they’ll tell you it’s not fair. We need to make sure the wealth generation that drives up prices and demand for services also feeds back into the system.”

“The pandemic stimulus lifted twelve million people out of poverty nationally. That’s a few hundred dollars a month, but the impact to lower-income earners is profound. We can’t maintain the argument anymore that a hot dog used to cost a nickel, and that minimum wage should be enough in such a high-cost region.”

Key findings from the Index

Employment is back to pre-pandemic levels, though more concentrated in tech.

Silicon Valley gained back most of the jobs lost early on in the pandemic by mid-2021, and the rest in the second half of the year.

Silicon Valley’s innovation engine is red hot.

Despite pandemic-related restrictions, the region’s technology companies broke records, with the aggregate market cap of Silicon Valley and San Francisco’s public companies reaching $14 trillion (doubling the market low of February 2020). Venture capital reached an all-time high at $95 billion in 2021, fueled by a record 257 megadeals. There were more IPOs (32) than any year in this century.

Commercial development continues at at break-neck pace.

The major tech companies such as Meta, Google, NetApp, and Apple have continued to build new space and execute leases for growth and expansion in the region, and Silicon Valley has seen an unprecedented amount of new commercial development gaining planning approvals (21.5 million square feet of new space across 135 sites).

Yet the region’s population is declining.

Silicon Valley is back to the size it was in 2015. This is partially due to declining birth and increasing mortality rates, and low levels of foreign immigration including refugee arrivals; it is also because the number of residents moving to other parts of California and the U.S.

Incomes are growing despite inflation, but intensifying extreme levels of inequality.

Median household income had a modest two percent gain after adjusting for inflation in 2020. Other income indicators (per capita earnings, average earnings) show strong percentage growth through 2021 but averages don’t convey how small the absolute dollar increases were for Silicon Valley’s lower wage earners. Income inequality in the region has grown twice as quickly as the state and nation, and the inequality is stratified by race (even at comparable levels of educational attainment). The wealth divide is even more stark, with the wealthiest 25% of households holding 92% of the wealth.

Home sale prices continue to soar, while average rents edge downward; homelessness mounts.

The median sale price of a home in Silicon Valley reached a record $1.3 million in 2021; 69% of homes sold were above $1 million (up from 59 % in 2019). Average rents declined 8% in 2020 and another 10% in 2021. However, the share of renters severely “burdened” by housing costs (paying more than 50 % of their income on rent) varies widely by industry — 27% of service workers are severely burdened, compared to 4% of tech workers. Santa Clara County tops the list of nearly 400 U.S. regions for the total number of unsheltered homeless, as well as the unsheltered share of unaccompanied youth.

There is less traffic on the roads, but transit is hurting.

Nearly half of all households had at least one member working from home at the end of 2020, a drastic shift which had an equally dramatic impact on roadway congestion (51% less delay). However, 2021 per capita transit ridership is 65% less than pre-pandemic levels, causing VTA, Caltrain, BART, and others to report debilitating revenue losses.

Viewed through an equity lens, Silicon Valley has miles to go.

Unemployment insurance claims filed during the pandemic show job losses disproportionately affecting Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino residents. Disparities in educational attainment persist across the Valley’s racial and ethnic groups, as well as income at similar levels of education.

White workers account for 60% of the leadership roles in the tech sector and 40% of the technical roles at Silicon Valley’s 20 largest tech companies; Asian workers represent 46% of technical roles and 32%. By contrast, Hispanic workers represent only 8% of the workforce at these same companies (but are nearly 24% of the Valley’s total workforce).

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Rachel Massaro, Joint Venture Vice President and Director of Research for the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies, authored the Index with Heidi Young, Senior Researcher at Joint Venture and the Institute with assistance from Stephen Levy, director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy and a senior advisor to the Institute. The study reports the latest data and trends in economic development, workforce, housing, education, public health, land use, environment, governance, arts, and other sectors throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and portions of Alameda and Santa Cruz counties and San Francisco.

The complete 2022 Silicon Valley Index is accessible online at www.siliconvalleyindicators.org and may be downloaded from the Joint Venture website.

Download the 2022 Index

The Index is published in conjunction with the annual “State of the Valley” conference, a town hall-style gathering of regional leaders, elected officials and citizens in a discussion of Silicon Valley’s economic opportunities, challenges and future. The 2022 State of the Valley conference takes place Friday, February 18. Register here.

About Joint Venture Silicon Valley

Established in 1993, Joint Venture provides analysis and action on issues affecting the Silicon Valley economy and quality of life. The organization brings together established and emerging leaders—from business, government, academia, labor and the broader community—to spotlight issues, launch projects and work toward innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.jointventure.org.

About the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies

The Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies is the research arm of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, and is housed within the organization. The Institute provides research and analysis on a host of issues facing Silicon Valley’s economy and society. For more information, visit www.siliconvalleyindicators.org.

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