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TheStreet Open House

Many Left Behind As Silicon Valley Rebounds

Nationally, Mishel says the declining value of the federal minimum wage is a major factor driving inequality. On Monday, in an effort to address this, minimum hourly wages will rise from $8 per hour to a new minimum of $10 per hour, the nation's largest minimum wage increase approved by voters last fall. While it's a dramatic shift for tens of thousands of workers, it's a minuscule fraction of the increases top earners in the region enjoyed last year.

Silicon Valley's top tech magnates inched up the Forbes annual list of the richest people on the planet released this week: Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison had a reported net worth of $43 billion, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had about $23 billion each, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, was worth an estimated $13.3 billion, and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, had an estimated worth of $10.7 billion.

"The wealth numbers are staggering, they are absolutely staggering," said Alf Nucifora, who chairs the Luxury Marketing Council of San Francisco

One in five ultra-wealthy Americans, defined by having a net worth above $30 million, lives in California, stoked by the "wealth-generating cluster" of the Silicon Valley, according to WealthX, a company that tracks the super-rich. Stanford University, in Palo Alto, boasts 1,173 alumni with a net worth of more than $30 million â¿¿ only Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania have more.

"The Silicon Valley is an ecosystem of human capital, venture capital, risk, an educational infrastructure," says WealthX president David Friedman. "All of those things combine into this glorious cocktail of prosperity."

But many residents, even those with college educations, are finding it tougher than ever to make it in the Silicon Valley.

Before the Great Recession, about 10 percent of people seeking food had at least some college education. Today, one in four who line up at food pantries for bags of free food have been to college. Last year the share of households in Silicon Valley earning less than $35,000 rose two percentage points to 20 percent, according to the 2013 Silicon Valley Index.

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