Key Indicator: Cost of Living

Key Indicator: Cost of Living

In 2017, Sustainable San Mateo County (SSMC) will examine the cost of living and how it impacts our neighborhoods, health, and culture. Located in the center of Silicon Valley, San Mateo County’s economy is closely interconnected with surrounding Bay Area counties and has become increasingly urban.

The cost of living in the Bay Area has grown over the past 20 years and is now over twice the national average (JobTrain). In San Mateo County, as with other metropolitan areas across the nation, the middle-class is shrinking. The high cost of living in the county is driving out low-income residents and limiting the ability of new arrivals to find suitable housing in proximity to their jobs.

Gini Coefficient

Income inequality has increased alongside the cost of living. According to the County of San Mateo Human Services Agency, one-third of families and one-fifth of individuals struggled to meet their basic needs in 2016. Depending on a resident’s income level and social capital, the cost of living can compromise access to quality housing, food, healthcare, utilities, transportation, education, childcare, work-life balance, and civic engagement.

Population growth and urbanization are transforming our region and require thoughtful planning to enhance and maintain the standard of living for our economically diverse population. Over the course of the year, SSMC will examine the economic drivers that influence the cost of living, document the social and environmental repercussions, and share resources that seek to address the challenges.

Our first research cluster is focused on Shifting Economic Equity in San Mateo County. Throughout the year we will continue our Cost of Living research and delve into housing, transportation, and work-life balance.


JobTrain: Job Training That Works. (2017). Retrieved from

JobTrain. (2016). The Broken Pathway: Uncovering the Economic Inequality in the Bay Area (p. 10). Retrieved from

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From the 2014 Indicators Report

The county’s population is expected to grow by 185,000 before 2040.

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‟The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them.”—Paul Hawken