The LIVE report

Silicon Valley's broken ladder to the middle class

Read the full LIVE report here ...


  • Silicon Valley has not added any net jobs in 16 years.

  • Silicon Valley's median household income, adjusted for inflation, has fallen 19.5% since 2000.

  • 31% of Silicon Valley jobs pay $16/hour or less, not enough for family self-sufficiency even with two working parents.

  • Every major Silicon Valley household expense has increased faster than wages since 2000.

  • In 2000, 1 in 4 Silicon Valley family incomes fell below self-sufficiency.

  • In 2011, 1 in 3 Silicon Valley family incomes fell below self-sufficiency.

  • Your guide to the 2012 LIVE report


    Minimum wage increase would help stop
    middle-class decline, Ro Khanna says

    Decrying what he described as "substituting economic ideology for pragmatism," former Obama administration economic official Ro Khanna called for progressive Americans to restore a role for government in the economy to rescue the dwindling middle class.

    "Since (first U.S. treasury secretary) Alexander Hamilton in 1791, government has played an important role in the American economy," Khanna said. "Our progressive vision is the Founders' vision."

    Khanna spoke at the Oct. 3 Life in the Valley Economy 2012 Summit, which marked the release of Working Partnerships USA's Life in the Valley Economy (LIVE) report, the unique view of Silicon Valley's economy from the perspective of working people. This year's LIVE report subtitled "Saving the Middle Class: Lessons from Silicon Valley-2012," documents an ominous decline in Silicon Valley living standards, where median household income (adjusted for inflation) has fallen 19.5 percent in 11 years during what is supposed to be an economic recovery.

    One in four local families fell below the self-sufficiency level in 2000, according to the LIVE report; last year one in three families fell below self-sufficiency.

    "To stabilize the economy and rebuild a secure middle class, the public sector must play a key role," the report says. "This is not a question of 'more government' or 'less government:' every government action or inaction affects the economy in some way."

    Khanna said "Figuring out the challenge of the middle class is really the challenge of the country," citing San Jose's Measure D -- which would raise the city's minimum wage to $10 an hour if approved in the Nov. 6 election -- as an immediate step toward improving economic conditions for ordinary people as yet untouched by recovery. "We have grown a culture of lack of respect for workers." The report includes a list of solutions for the problems it identifies in Silicon Valley.

    Khanna, who was a deputy assistant secretary of commerce, is a Fremont lawyer who recently published Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America's Future.

    LIVE report looks at local economy
    from middle-class perspective

    "The LIVE report's significance is that it looks at Silicon Valley's economy from the viewpoint of the parent who just dropped the kids off at school and now is rushing to work, not as seen by a banker watching stock market trends on a smartphone," said Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships executive director. "This is the perspective that's ignored by the business press and many Silicon Valley elites."

    In offering this important perspective from the high-tech region heralded as the leader of America's economic recovery, the LIVE report is a glimpse into the future of the nation's middle class, which is shrinking in Silicon Valley even as recovery drives stocks and home prices upward. The LIVE Report will discuss solutions that are being proposed or tested in our region.

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