Tech giants in Silicon Valley have intensified income inequality, displacing low-income and working-class families — but some high-earning engineers want you to know they're suffering too. They helped create a bubble, and now they have to buy $8 bagels in it.
The Guardian published a story on Monday illustrating the woes of wealthy engineers in Silicon Valley who feel they are just "scraping by" due to rising rents in the area. For the piece, a handful of tech workers discussed their struggles to achieve the "American dream" due to an increase in housing prices. Concerned about rising property prices, they've had to make sacrifices — like ditching their daily $12 fresh-pressed juice.
Suffocated inside their own bubble
The individuals interviewed by the Guardian had annual salaries ranging from $100,000 to $700,000. The annual average pay in Santa Clara County, San Mateo County and San Francisco at the end of March 2016 was, respectively, $114,920. $114,140 and $106,808, Mercury News reported.
The story includes some bleak anecdotes — an Apple employee living in a garage using a compost bucket as a toilet, for example — but it also reveals the glaring disconnect among the top 1% of earners.
Problems conveyed in the story included hellishly long commutes and the inability to purchase million-dollar homes. Compared to the homelessness and displacement of families with children, a direct consequence of the tech boom, these predicaments are the definition of first-world problems.
"We haven't built enough housing in the region to keep up with population growth," Stephen Levy, director and senior economist at the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, told NBC News. "We're very short on supply, and what that has meant is the people with money have begun to bid up prices and rents on homes that used to be lived in by middle-class families." This, Levy said, is what ultimately pushes them out.
So it's frustrating to hear these six-figure earners complain that the lifestyle they have is not enough — especially when, for many of them, they have other options. Like, for example, a 41-year-old tech worker at a networking firm in Silicon Valley who took a 50% pay cut from his $700,000 annual salary to move to San Diego because he couldn't afford property closer to work. (He was commuting 22 miles.)
This indicates that yes, it is becoming increasingly difficult in Silicon Valley to afford property near work. There are sacrifices and trade-offs! But these individuals have the ability to relocate and continue to live a comfortable life elsewhere.
Michelle, a 28-year-old making six figures in Silicon Valley, acknowledges that while you might feel guilty amid such expansive homelessness, "What are you supposed to do? Not make a lot of money? Not advocate for yourself and then not afford to live here?"
Sure! Advocate for yourselves! Fight your way to the top — or, I guess, fight among the top. But this fight is exacerbating labor-market inequality, and for an industry hell-bent on making the world a better place (or so they say), these attitudes read more as "looking out for No. 1."
"The whiny millennial snowflake type would say, 'You're a terrible person making things worse for us,'" Sam, a 40-year-old six-figure earner in Silicon Valley, told the Guardian. "The truth is, if I gave up, what would I do? Should I knit sweaters and trade them?"
Ah, yes. The natural next step for someone who quit a job making $120,000 at a multinational software company: knitting sweaters. It's almost as if some of these high earners don't truly understand how the world they want to disrupt actually works.