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Report: Silicon Valley income gap continues to widen

New study also shows an increase in health insurance coverage, decrease in poverty rate

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Silicon Valley incomes have increased for the second straight year after a three-year downward trend, according to a report released by Joint Venture Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies, a nonprofit think tank, on Sept. 24.

The new study, an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 American Community Survey, shows a significant increase in Silicon Valley households earning at least $150,000, up by 25,000 between 2012 and 2013 -- a jump from 26 percent to 29 percent of the total.

The increase in the number of high-income Silicon Valley households was nearly five times greater than the increase in total households overall, said Rachel Massaro, Joint Venture vice president and senior research associate for the Institute, in a press release.

"The recent economic trends for Silicon Valley indicate continued recovery following the recession, although disparities still exist," Ms. Massaro said.

The median household income increased 1.3 percent in 2013, to nearly $95,000, but the uptick was less than the statewide rate of 1.7 percent, the report states. However, "our income gains are limited to those with ultra high-end skills. Median wages for low- and middle-skilled workers are relatively stagnant and the share of households with mid-level incomes has fallen in Silicon Valley more than in the state and nation."

The U.S. census, for 2008 to 2012, lists Menlo Park's annual median household income as $113,774 and its median home value as at least $1 million. According to the Joint Venture report, rental expenses have outpaced income increases, and less than half of first-time homebuyers can afford a house priced at the median.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Mateo County is $2,100 a month now, and expected to keep rising, according to nonprofit HIP Housing.

Menlo Park has been working on expanding its inventory of affordable housing. The city finalized an update to its state-mandated housing element earlier this year, identifying sites for new units and incentives for developers to build below-market-rate homes. The city also legalized secondary, or granny units, in an effort to increase the numbers of homes available to those with lower incomes.

The Joint Venture report also indicates a decrease in the region's poverty rate and an uptick in those with health insurance:

• The percentage of Silicon Valley's working age population with health insurance increased by 1.5 percent, compared with less than 1 percent across the country.

• The percentage of Silicon Valley's population living under the federal poverty limit of $23,550 for a family of four dropped from 10.1 percent to 9.7 percent, compared with 16.8 percent for California overall and 15.8 percent nationwide.

Almanac Staff Writer Sandy Brundage contributed to this report.

Click here for a guide to navigating census.gov.

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