Silicon Valley Pain Index
The HRI will offer the SVPI as an annual report on the state of inequality and quality
of life for San José and Silicon Valley residents. Its inspiration can be found in
Professor Bill Quigley's Katrina Pain Index following the devastating 2005 storm.
The SVPI measures are meant to reflect fundamental (IBHR) International Human Rights
and to serve as one of many potential illustrations of Santa Clara County’s [SCC]
performance as a “human rights county.”
First produced in 2020, the 2021 SVPI report updates prior findings and illustrates a stunning increase in inequalities over the past year, as communities weathered a global rebellion against racist police violence, the global COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine rollout, and an economic downturn producing high unemployment rates in the face of still rising housing costs.
While our community was shocked at the incredibly high levels of racial discrimination and income and wealth inequality detailed in the 2020 SVPI, the 2021 Silicon Valley Pain Index shows how the level of inequality during this pandemic has gone from bad to horrific. As 2021 SVPI shows, most all “pain” indicators have worsened, as hunger, housing insecurity, homelessness, high school dropout rates, income inequality, and wealth inequality have all increased.
Following the August 2021 SCC Human Rights Commission meeting a letter was written
to the Board President and County Supervisors addressing the need for the SVPI to
a standard tool within the county to mark how we are addressing the human rights needs
of the County.
In the letter the SCC Human Rights Commission suggested the Board of Supervisors to do three things:
1st: Have you and your entire staff read the Silicon Valley Pain index;
2nd: Explore ways that human rights can be used as a framework, and the SVPI as an annual measure for decisions concerning at-risk communities in the County. One specific example would be to require that any proposal to change policy/practice in the County include the “human rights impacts” of the proposed policy/practice (as is already the case for considerations of other “impacts”).
3rd: Consider enacting the policies that the Human Rights Commission, in consultation with the SJSU Human Rights Institute, develop to address the vast inequalities found in the Pain Index.
We celebrate Dr. King’s birthday each year since his life’s work provides the nation
a way out of the chaos of white supremacy and toward the beloved community offered
by a multi-ethnic, multi-racial democracy. But for Dr. King, the beloved community
was blocked by racism and economic exploitation, which he saw as interconnected, stating,
“A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will ‘thingify’ them and
make them things. And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally
economically.” For King racism and economic exploitation were part of the structures
of society that were enacted out through various institutions (i.e., political, economic,
education, family, criminal justice, etc.), and they created a pattern, or "curious
formula". King saw this “curious formula” dating back to the writing of the Constitution
in 1787, where a black person was defined as 60% of a human being when determining
taxation and representation. According to King, this initial principle led to a “curious
formula” where Blacks received one-half of the good things in life, and two times
This curious formula was the reality in 1968, when King was murdered, and sadly, it is the reality today in these United States, and more specifically for us in Silicon Valley. And while there are probably not many in Silicon Valley who would support the violent actions taken this past week by the white extremist organizations in Washington DC, institutionalized racism still dominates most of our institutions as is demonstrated by the MLK infographic presented by Silicon Valley Pain Index. In dramatic color images of King, the infographic shows the curious formula’s consistent pattern where our institutions provide Blacks (and other people of color) one-half of the good things in life, and two times the bad.