Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 4, 2011

Numbers in context

I’ll be writing about the City Council meeting tomorrow, in case any one was wondering.   But in the meantime, I wanted to talk about yet another post from Denise Lai’s Raising Hell for Good.   I had made a promise to myself that I would be leaving that site alone for a while, but one of last week’s posts had bothered me all weekend that I felt as though I need to clear up some of the information that was presented as “facts” in the actual piece.

So, first she kicks off the post with a premise glommed from Alameda County Food Bank’s website that, generally speaking, one in six people rely on food banks and of that number half are children.   She then goes through the process of calculating how that would relate in Alameda city numbers:

1/6 x 70,000 = 11,800, 11,800/2 = 5,900, and 5,900 = 38% of the 15,576 children in our city.

And surmising that:

Extrapolating for our city, likely conservative numbers for the West End, we are looking at a full 38% of our children relying on the food bank for survival.

First of all, I checked in with our local food bank, the City of Alameda’s Food Bank who reported that of the 5600+ unique individuals that use the Alameda Food Bank, 33% of that number are children.   Of course, there could be a fair number of families using the County’s Food Bank instead, so a better number to extrapolate how many kids might be using the Food Bank to supplement their families supply would be the number of kids in poverty according to the American Fact Finder’s 2005 – 2009 population estimates — we won’t have new number until next year.

According to these numbers 14.4% of Alameda’s children are below the poverty line:

While, it’s not as much as estimated by Denise L. it is a number to pause at.   Since we’re on the subject, the Alameda Food Bank always needs donations for their food pantries.   I’ll have more information on a post on In Alameda today.

Another item presented as fact by Denise L. is that:

Our median family income is half of that of other SF Bay Area cities.

I was actually taken aback by this claim and wondered where that particular data point came from.   According to the American Fact Finder 2005 -2009 estimates, Alameda’s median family income is $90,429.   In the link, I imported all the data from California cities with populations greater than 10K.   There are two different sheets on that document, one with Median Family Income sorted from lowest to greatest and the other that sorts Median Income from lowest to greatest.   So while it’s true that our median family income is half that of other SF Bay Area cities those are cities like Orinda, Los Altos, Piedmont, and Hillsborough with family median incomes in the $180K range.   The majority of other SF Bay Area cities do not have highly inflated median family incomes like Los Altos, but are sort of in the same general ballpark as Alameda.  I have highlighted in blue as many Bay Area cities as I could identify.   I might have missed a few.  It’s disingenuous to present that information such a way that would lead people to surmise that Alameda’s median family income is abnormally low.

Another factoid presented is that:

We have very, very few local jobs (the school is our largest employer).

While we can argue what a lot of local jobs means and what “very, very few” means.  After all that’s more of an subjective  standard than an objective one.   According to the Association of Bay Area Governments job housing balance ratios while Alameda’s is not one of the highest it could better at an almost one to one jobs to housing ratio, which — depending on what your subjective measure of high or low is — could be interpreted either way.

I’ve also heard the factoid passed around that the Alameda Unified School District is the largest employer in the City of Alameda, but according to the City’s last Comprehensive Annual Finance Report, that is not the case:

However, I do believe that UT Starcom may be moving out of Alameda, which still leaves the Coast Guard, Telecare Corp, and Wind River as employers that still have substantially more employees that AUSD and therefore not technically the “largest employer.”

Finally, there is a quote at the very end:

…poverty is the chief cause of immorality and crime. Theft, violence, hatred, cruelty, all result from poverty.”

That is attributed to the Dalai Lama.

In actuality it is a quote by John Daido Loori as he is explaining an observation made by Buddha (starts on page 3).   The full quote is:

One of the central observations Buddha made about the breakdown of the social fabric is that poverty is the chief cause of immorality and crime. Theft, violence, hatred, cruelty, all result from poverty. It seems that ancient governments in India, like many governments today, tried to handle the problem of crime through punishment. They attempted to suppress it. Buddha said that attempts to control crime will ultimately be futile. This kind of control is like building a dam to hold back rising water. The barrier wil hold back the water, but the barrier will always need to be there, and there will always be the threat of the water’s spilling over or sweeping the dam away. Buddha said that if you want to eradicate crime, the economic conditions of people have to be improved.


  1. The cutoff line for Federal assistance to provide free or reduced meals to Alameda students is different than below the poverty line. Here is ten year history of participation of students by school. Just remember participation is voluntary and not everyone signs up who is qualified:

    Comment by Mike McMahon — May 4, 2011 @ 7:21 am

  2. Alameda Neighborhood in Alameda, CA
    Median Household Income $66,026
    Income Per Capita $35,426
    Recent Job Growth
    (past 12 months) -0%

    Demographics & Households
    Median Age 41.2
    Male 48%
    Female 52%
    Married 47%
    White 51%
    Black 6%
    American Indian 1%
    Asian/pacific Islander 31%
    Hispanic 9%
    Other Race 10%
    Number of Households 28,875
    Median Household Size 2.4
    Owners 45%
    Renters 49%
    Vacancies 7%

    Median earnings for workers (dollars)

    Median Household Income – Alameda, CA
    Median Household Income $70,144.00
    Data reported by Kim Geiger
    Executive Producer, CityLab
    Full reporter profile

    Data source American Community Survey
    Full profile

    Data URL
    Notes about the data None
    Additional notes about the source CityLab uses demographic data from the American Community Survey from the U.S Census because it is the most current, uniform data available. When the 2010 U.S. Census numbers become available, we will consider updating these data points with the new Census data.
    Data published or reported on June 26, 2009
    Updated on CityLab June 26, 2009
    Data expiration date N/A

    Comment by John — May 4, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  3. City Data from Real Estate Agent
    94501 Zip Code Detailed Profile

    Estimated median household income in 2009: $63,607

    This zip code:
    Housing units in zip code 94501 with a mortgage: 5,524 (783 second mortgage, 745 home equity loan, 29 both second mortgage and home equity loan)
    Houses without a mortgage: 2,319

    Median monthly owner costs for units with a mortgage: $2,762

    Median monthly owner costs for units without a mortgage: $507

    Residents with income below the poverty level in 2009:

    This zip code:

    Read more:

    Read more:

    Comment by John — May 4, 2011 @ 11:23 am

  4. I don’t believe the household or family incomes of the retired, self-employed, or unemployed are ever accurately measured by these stats. I know mine isn’t. And websites value my house @ $900K when its <$300K! Instead of obsessing over stats, why don't you & Denise get naked & mudwrestle to settle your feud? You could sell tickets. Oh, I forgot, no sense of humor.

    Comment by notmayberry — May 4, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

  5. John: Please note that the spreadsheet I linked to includes a tab for Median Household Income and another tab for Median Family Income. Denise Lai referenced Median Family Income in her post which is why I specifically mentioned the Median Family Income number for Alameda. As you noted and as reflected on the spreadsheet tab, Median Household Income which would include people who are retired, etc is far lower.

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 4, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

  6. Pudding Wrestling
    notmayberry. You need to get out once in awhile.

    Laureen these are inflation adjusted dollars you are showing. I don’t know many that got raises to justify these numbers in last few years.Especially in private sector.

    FAMILIES: Median family income in the past 12 months (in 2009 inflation-adjusted dollars) (Estimate)

    Median household income in the past 12 months (in 2009 inflation-adjusted dollars) (Estimate)

    Comment by John — May 4, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

  7. Denise Lai claims in her “about” section that “Life is good.”

    How does that statement mesh with her relentless and overstated presentation of Alameda as some sort of a disaster-filled community? And what purpose does relentless negativity serve if or when “life is good”?

    Comment by Jon Spangler — May 5, 2011 @ 12:00 am

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