Prosperity & Poverty

Prosperity & Poverty

Income and Wages  Employment and Unemployment  Poverty  Food Insecurity

Sustainability Goals

Rising wages and income equity for all genders and races raises the standard of living for workers, which can further accelerate economic growth. The poverty rate is low and support services help those most in need. 

Indicator Overview

High employment rates are good for the overall economy, but on an individual level, employment has many personal benefits. Being employed in a job that pays a living wage not only allows people to support their families, it also contributes to positive emotional well-being. Employment and health are also linked, with studies showing employed people more likely to report having good health than the unemployed.

Within a cohesive community, members are actively engaged in the well-being of the group, and they look out for and support one another. This sense of belonging not only strengthens communities, but it also offers health and emotional benefits to its members. 

Income and Wages

Median household income is one way to measure income of residents in the county: half of households earn more than the median income and half earn less. It’s considered a more reliable indicator than the average income because it is less likely to be skewed by outlier data, such as unusually high or low incomes.
Median Household Income 2007-2015

  • San Mateo County’s median household income rose 0.22% in 2015.
  • California and the nation saw a rise in median income of approximately 4% in 2015.
Updated March 2017


Annual Income by Gender and Race San Francisco Metro Area, 2014
  • The distribution of income in San Mateo County changed considerably from 2007 to 2015. In 2007, 59% of county households had income under $99,000; by 2015, this percentage decreased to 49%.
Median Household Income by Census Tract

Average Weekly Wages

Average weekly wages track wages paid by employers in San Mateo County and include other compensation such as stock options and bonuses. Unlike median household income, average weekly wage data are more likely to be skewed by unusually large or small values.

Average Weekly Wages San Mateo County, 2006-2015


  • Average weekly wages grew by 31% in 2012, reaching a record high of $2,057, driven by increased wages in the Financial Activities and Professional and Business Services industry segments. Since 2013, the average wages remained virtually stagnant.
  • The Information Sector has the highest weekly average in the county, though it decreased by 2% compared to 2014.
  • The wages for education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and trade, transportation and utilities sectors are lagging significantly behind the other three sectors contributing to rising income inequality within the county.

Rising Wages

To address the increased cost of living in 2014, California raised its minimum wage from $8/hour to $9/hour, and increased again in 2016 to $10/hour. Meanwhile, San Francisco supervisors passed an ordinance to increase the minimum wage from $10.74 to $15/hour by 2018. In 2016, the San Mateo City Council increased the minimum wage within the city limits to $15 per hour. The ordinance will reach full implementation by 2019, with an extension for nonprofit organizations. At least 25% of low-wage workers in the city earn less than $15 per hour as of 2015. Beginning in 2020, the San Mateo City Council will adjust the minimum wage each year to match the cost of living in accordance with the Regional Consumer Price Index.

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Employment and Unemployment

  • In 2016, employment in the county rose by 2.9% compared to the previous year, a smaller increase compared to the growth in 2015, which showed a 3.2% gain.
  • Employment surpassed 2000‘s high of 387,000 in 2013 and continues an upward trend.
  • The unemployment rate continued to decline at the county, state, and federal level for the fifth straight year since it peaked in 2010.

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Nov2016Label Poverty Rate 2005-2015
  • Despite an increase in the median household income, the poverty rate in San Mateo County increased by 16% in 2015.
  • The Santa Clara County poverty rate was 8.2%, and Marin’s poverty rate of 7.1% was the lowest in the nine-county Bay Area in 2015.
Updated March 2017 Working Poor by Race 2014
  • Between 2010 and 2014, San Mateo County had the lowest poverty rate in the nine-county Bay Area, with the exception of 2012 when Marin had the lowest poverty rate.
  • The San Mateo County poverty rate for families with children increased by 23% between 2014 and 2015, and the poverty rate for single, female headed families increased by 16%.
  • The child poverty rate is significantly higher for families with a single female householder in San Mateo County and California as a whole.
  • The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is the annual income required to meet basic needs. Adjusted annually for inflation, the FPL does not account for local variations in the cost of living and therefore underestimates the number of people living in poverty in expensive areas like San Mateo County.

Alternative Measure for Poverty

The Self-Sufficiency Standard (SSS) calculates the income required to meet basic needs (without public or private assistance). Unlike the FPL, it accounts for local costs of living such as housing, childcare, healthcare, and transportation. In 2014, the SSS for a family of four in San Mateo County required an annual income of $85,090 to meet basic needs without public or private assistance, considerably higher than the FPL of $23,850. The SSS annual income for the county is equivalent to two adults earning an hourly wage of $20.14. According to the Insight Center for Economic Development, 55,242 households in the county (29% of total households) had incomes below the Self-Sufficiency Standard, while nearly 42% of county households with children had income below the SSS.

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Food Insecurity



California Economic Development Department, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. (2016). Retrieved from

U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2015, 1-year estimates. Healthcare Insurance Coverage. Retrieved from:


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From the 2017 Indicators Report

The cost of living in the Bay Area has grown over the past 20 years and is now over twice the national average. It has risen by nearly 50% in the past 10 years.

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