New United Way Report Shows 29% of Bay Area Households Are Struggling to Afford Basic Needs

Some Families Need Four Minimum Wage Workers to Make Ends Meet.

United Way of the Bay Area Logo

San Francisco, CA, USA (October 23, 2014) — Struggling to Make Ends Meet on Minimum Wage, new brief by United Way of the Bay Area, reveals that as of 2012, 29% of Bay Area households were struggling to cover the cost of basic needs. That’s 657,000 households that cannot afford critical needs like housing, food, health care and child care. According to the brief, the post-recession recovery has yet to be felt by many Bay Area households because wages for low-income workers have failed to keep up with the high cost of living.

Since 2008, the overall cost of living has increased by an average of 26% in San Francisco and 24% in Alameda County. Monthly housing expenses for a San Francisco family with two adults and two children cost an average of $1,444 in 2008, but that number jumped to $1,896 in 2014.

Yet average wages increased just 7% for the lowest-paid workers between 2007 and 2012. According to the California Self-Sufficiency Standard, a San Francisco family with two adults and two children would need to earn $79,092 annually to cover the cost of basic needs. That would require four full-time jobs at San Francisco’s hourly minimum of $10.74. In Alameda, the same family would need to earn $72,830 annually to cover the cost of basic needs. At Alameda’s $9 per hour minimum wage, that would also require four full-time jobs.

Because the cost of living in the Bay Area is so much higher than the national average, the Self-Sufficiency Standard is a much more accurate predictor of need than the Federal Poverty Line for California households. The Self-Sufficiency Standard calculates the income needed to cover the true cost of basic needs in the specific county where an individual or family lives.

“It’s unrealistic that parents could work four full-time minimum wage jobs to cover the cost of basic needs for their families,” said Anne Wilson, Chief Executive Officer at United Way of the Bay Area. “United Way of the Bay Area is proud to join a broad coalition of civic leaders in supporting Proposition J in San Francisco and Measure FF in Oakland, which will help more Bay Area households move closer to achieving self-sufficiency.”

Proposition J would phase in a higher minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next four years and benefit more than 23% of San Francisco’s workforce. Measure FF would increase Oakland’s minimum wage to $12.25 and benefit up to 30% of the city’s workers.

In addition to raising the minimum wage, United Way of the Bay Area supports other key strategies to boost family stability: 1) increase job training to help critical populations acquire the skills needed to attain higher-wage jobs, 2) change policies to reward people for moving off safety net benefits, and 3) boost collaboration among agencies to increase the accessibility of support services.

View the self-sufficiency brief, Struggling to Make Ends Meet on Minimum Wage at Data for each of the nine Bay Area counties is available upon request.

# # #

About United Way of the Bay Area
United Way of the Bay Area is a nonprofit organization, leading a movement to cut Bay Area poverty in half by 2020. We’re harnessing the collective power of nonprofits, government, corporations, labor and thousands of individuals to create change through giving, advocating, and volunteering. Every year, our programs – SparkPoint, Earn It! Keep It! Save It!, 211, MatchBridge and Community Schools – help more than 250,000 Bay Area residents. We connect people to food and shelter, put people back to work, bring tax dollars back to our community, help youth succeed in school and in the workplace, and move people toward financial stability. Founded in 1922, United Way of the Bay Area serves Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Solano Counties. For more information, visit

Media Contact:
Erica Johnson