Photo: Brandon J Hale/Shutterstock

5 Uncomfortable Truths About Living in San Francisco

San Francisco Student Work Activism
by Amanda Machado Feb 20, 2015

1. In terms of income equality, the city is as unequal as Rwanda.

Recently, San Francisco’s Human Services Agency used the Gini Coefficient, a popular formula employed by the World Bank, the CIA, and other groups, to measure how San Francisco’s income inequality compared to other cities and countries. The formula gives a region a score of 0 if every person in its population shares wealth exactly equally. The scores increase towards 1 the more the wealth is held by a smaller portion of people. Using this formula, San Francisco scored a .523, ranking it slightly more unequal than Rwanda (.508) and only slightly more equal than Guatemala (.559). To add more perspective, countries like Sweden and Denmark scored around a .25, cities like Amsterdam, London and Paris all scored around a .32., and the United States as a whole scored a .45.

This income inequality also has a racial component: the average white San Franciscan makes three times more money than the average black resident, 66 percent more than the average Latino resident, and 44 percent more than the average Asian resident.

2. The average price for a year of rent is almost equal to a starting public school teacher’s salary.

A new report from the data company Priceonomics found that the median rental price of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, as of June 2014, was $3,120, totaling to a yearly housing price of $37,440. The average starting salary for a San Francisco Unified School District teacher is $47,000. The numbers exemplify how the city has become essentially unlivable for teachers, service workers, and other employees with middle-class salaries. Many of these workers come from nonprofit organizations: almost one quarter of non-profits in San Francisco have had to leave the city as a result of higher rent prices. From 2008 to 2012, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that the city lost approximately 30,000 workers with incomes of less than $35,000 a year.

3. Almost a third of the city’s homeless residents identify as LGBTQ.

Though San Francisco may be one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country, recent numbers indicate that the city hasn’t necessarily taken care of its LGBTQ population as much as you’d expect. In the city’s 2013 count of its homeless population, the city for the first time asked information on sexual orientation. The result? 29% of the city’s 6,436 homeless residents identified as LGBTQ, nearly twice the national average. LGBTQ youth who intentionally seek out San Francisco for its LGBTQ resources may partially contribute to the abnormally high number. However, the survey found that many of the city’s homeless LGBTQ residents were not runaway youth, but adults, seniors, and long-time residents, leading many to believe that it’s actually the city’s housing and eviction issues that may be at fault.

According to the Anti-Eviction mapping project, the Castro neighborhood was hit the hardest by the city’s recent flood of evictions: from 1997-2013, 837 units in the area were evicted. As housing in the city evolves, activists worry that San Francisco may become a city packed with resources, social services, and community centers for an LGBTQ population that can no longer afford to live there.

4. It’s one of the worst cities for African-Americans to economically succeed.

New Geography, a start-up that analyzes cities and quality of life, ranked the country’s major metropolitan areas based on how easily black communities could economically thrive. The ranking looked at four typical measures of middle class economic success for black communities: homeownership, entrepreneurship (measured through self-employment rate), median household income, and the change in the African-American population from 2000 to 2013.

San Francisco placed 48 out of 50. While all other racial groups in the city have median incomes over $50,000, the median income of black households is $30,840. And though the city-wide unemployment rate has decreased to only 4%, the lowest rate in years, the unemployment rate for black youth is five times higher at 20%. The black population in the city, almost half of what it was in 1950, decreased an additional 9% from 2000-2013, and now constitutes only 6.3% of San Francisco’s total population. Meanwhile, San Francisco’s jail population is disproportionately 56% black.

5. It’s the most educated city in the United States…yet its upper-class no longer invests in the city’s public education system.

San Francisco has the densest concentration of educated workers in the United States: over 7,000 college-degree-holders per square mile. Almost 75% of San Francisco residents hold a bachelor’s degree and almost 20% have graduate/professional degrees. And yet, the city’s public education system has been largely abandoned by the city’s white, upper-class population.
San Francisco ranks third among American cities with the highest private school enrollment, with enrollment almost at 20%, even higher than places like Manhattan and Los Angeles. The majority of students attending these private schools are white and upper-class: though white children account for 33 percent of the city’s overall population, they only represent 12 percent of public school students. Half of the city’s elementary schools have white populations below 10%. A quarter have white populations below 2%.

Many argue that this economic and racial segregation drives resources away from the public school system. This can lead to further educational inequalities. For example, according to a 2014 report from the US Department of Education, San Francisco schools with a majority student of color population were far more likely to have inexperienced teachers, and students of color learning in segregated environments were far less likely to graduate.

Discover Matador