Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Opinion: An innovative idea for California’s economy: a tech dividend

By Chris Benner
UC Santa Cruz

November 27, 2018 — Santa Cruz, CA

(Photo above: Chris Benner is a professor of sociology and the director of the Santa Cruz Institute for Social Transformation at UC Santa Cruz.)

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Silicon Valley is the uncontested global driver of innovation. It is the birthplace of products and services that have changed our lives, from the iPhone to Google.

But Silicon Valley has a dirty little secret: As synonymous with California as Hollywood, Silicon Valley rewards its star actors — and overlooks the bit players. A recent study reveals that nine in 10 Silicon Valley jobs pay less today than they did 20 years ago.

This concentration of wealth mirrors a sad truth about California, the world’s fifth-largest economy. We are a state of “haves” and “have nots.” Consider the underbelly of California’s economy:

  • We rank fourth among U.S. states in terms of income inequality.
  • Real median wages have flatlined since 1980 — despite soaring worker productivity.
  • The ratio of black to white household income is lower today than it was in the early 1990s.
  • And the ratio of Latino to white household income has barely budged.

These are among the findings in a new report, “From Resistance to Renewal: A 12-Step Program for Innovation and Inclusion in the California Economy,” that I co-authored with my USC colleague Manuel Pastor. In it, we shed light on the inequalities hiding beneath the glitter of the Golden State. But we don’t just highlight the problems; we also outline an economic reboot designed to promote greater equity and inclusion.

Silicon Valley can and should play a key role in leveling the playing field of California’s economy. One mechanism would be a technology dividend to support a more inclusive and secure safety net.

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