Almanac

News - June 5, 2013

Income and housing costs separated by growing gap in county

• 2013 indicators report released.

by Sandy Brundage

Incomes are dropping even as housing prices increase, according to the 2013 "Indicators for a Sustainable San Mateo County" report.

Data from 2002 through 2011, show that average weekly income fell 14 percent, and although the number of jobs rebounded slightly after dropping in 2009, the sectors with the highest job growth — leisure/hospitality and education/health — also had average weekly wages below the county average of $1,521.

San Mateo County continues to perch near the top of the nation's housing cost ranking, with only 47 percent of households able to afford their first entry-level homes, compared with 71 percent in California and 82 percent nationwide. The median sales price for a single-family house last year came in at $740,000, a 6 percent hike from 2011. Within the Almanac's coverage area, the median price went even higher <0x2014. $1.3 million in Menlo Park; $3.2 million in Atherton; $2.2 million in Portola Valley, and $1.6 million in Woodside.

The average rent in the county jumped nearly 20 percent during the past two years, according to the report.

Some findings surprised the staff of Sustainable San Mateo County, the nonprofit responsible for compiling the report. The median income for people with bachelor's degrees dropped, and those with more advanced degrees had median incomes about 61 percent higher than those with bachelor's degrees.

"I think this shows the extent to which we are becoming more and more a knowledge society and the importance of a high-quality education for lifetime earning potential," said Adrienne Etherton, executive director of Sustainable San Mateo County. "At the same time the cost of education is going up and there are significant disparities in funding for public education, with per pupil expenditures at the high end almost two and a half times that at the low end for school districts in our county,"

The 2013 report focused on income inequality and the staff hopes it spurs community dialogue. "We were seeing a lot of reports on a national level about the growing income divide which spurred an interest in taking a look at this issue on a local level and examining how equity affects other aspects of our community," Ms. Etherton said.

Go to sustainablesanmateo.org to review the complete report, which includes analysis of natural resource consumption, commute patterns and other topics.

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