New Vital Signs Data Tracks Disparate Impacts of Bay Area’s Economic Boom
Did you know that 45 percent of Bay Area workers in 2015 held jobs paying more than 120 percent of the regional median wage? Or that fewer than one-fifth of the region’s jobs that year were considered middle-wage positions paying 80 percent to 120 percent of the regional median? How about that San Francisco and Alameda are the only Bay Area counties to register a decline in their poverty rates from 1980 to 2015? Or that housing affordability generally is a greater challenge for residents of the Los Angeles, Miami and New York metro areas than it is in the Bay Area? These are just some of the facts revealed today as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) expanded its award-winning Vital Signs website (www.vitalsigns.mtc.ca.gov) to include an Equity section with information on the region’s housing affordability, housing displacement risks, poverty rates, wage stratification, migration trends and life expectancy.
The addition of the Equity section marks the latest evolution of MTC’s two-year-old Vital Signs initiative. Visitors also can consult the interactive website to track the Bay Area’s progress toward reaching key transportation, land use, environmental and economic policy goals, as well as to learn about historical trends, differences and similarities among the region’s communities, and how the nine-county Bay Area stacks up with other major U.S. metro areas.
Dave Vautin, MTC’s Vital Signs project manager, says the website is designed to provide both access to data and a unique online experience. “This information is not just useful to researchers but genuinely interesting to the public at large. The Equity data show that the Bay Area’s strong rebound from the Great Recession has not only created new economic challenges for lower- and middle-income households but also has reinforced some longstanding trends.“
Among the other key findings in the Equity data is that since the end of the Great Recession, the Bay Area has added more high-wage jobs than either low- or middle-wage jobs; and high-wage positions now account for the lion’s share of all jobs in every part of the region except the North Bay. Indeed, while overall Bay Area employment has grown by roughly 5 percent since the early 2001 peak of the dot-com boom, the share of low- and middle-wage jobs has fallen during this time.
This economic stratification is correlated with the Bay Area’s housing affordability problem and with broadly rising displacement risks. Nearly one-third of Bay Area households are now considered excessively burdened by housing costs, with monthly housing expenses accounting for more than 35 percent of income. This squeeze generally has been felt most by those who rent their homes, and especially by those in Solano and Sonoma counties. Visitors to the Displacement page on the Vital Signs website will find a detailed map on which they can zoom in to the neighborhood level for estimates of the number of current households at risk of being priced out of communities throughout the Bay Area.
The new Vital Signs data also show that while the Bay Area experiences a net loss of about 16,000 residents each year due to domestic migration (largely to lower-cost counties in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys), a similar dynamic plays out in most other major U.S. metro areas as well. Only the Houston and Dallas areas receive more new residents each year than they lose to other parts of Texas or to other states. And the levels of out-migration from the New York, Los Angeles and Chicago metro areas dwarf those in the Bay Area.
Along with the new Equity section, new statistics on urban development around the Bay Area also was added the Land and People section of the Vital Signs website. These data show the region added only 2,400 acres to its urban footprint from 2012 to 2014, the lowest level of so-called greenfield development since 2000. Among major U.S. metro areas, new building projects in Chicago, Los Angeles and the Bay Area consumed the fewest acres of previously undeveloped land, while the Houston, Dallas and Atlanta areas consumed the most.
MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.