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Polis Report

Rich Man, Poor Man

By Traci Hukill

The word's in on how rich Santa Clara County is. Again. This time the messenger is the California Franchise Tax Board, better known as the state tax office, and its latest report lists 1995 median incomes for all 58 counties in the state.

Santa Clara County's median income--which means half the reported incomes are higher and half are lower--ranks fourth in the state at $30,893, behind Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo counties. Our median income for joint returns beat San Mateo out for third at $59,638. Not too shabby. We should all congratulate ourselves for being clever enough to live in such an affluent county.

Interestingly, Kids in Common, a children and families collaborative, just released its 1997 Santa Clara County Children's Report Card, a compilation of statistics measuring the economic status, educational opportunities and general health of Santa Clara County's kids. This report, not surprisingly, sketches a different portrait of life in the valley.

The child poverty rate is on the rise, says the Report Card, and has been since 1990. In 1994 an estimated 14 percent of kids were living below the poverty line, and most of them in pockets of poverty found in downtown San Jose, east San Jose and Gilroy. Our average per-pupil expenditure lags behind the state's average (already ranked an embarrassing 42nd nationwide) and some 20 percent behind the national average. The dropout rate in Santa Clara County has steadily increased over the last six years, with more than half of the dropouts being Hispanic.

No study is perfect. People who make $10,000 a year or less don't have to file state taxes, a fact that perhaps makes the Franchise Tax Board's findings a little sunnier than the reality. And some of the studies in the Report Card, like the one that suggests a decreasing infant mortality rate in the county, cast rays of hope.

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From the Sept. 4-10, 1997 issue of Metro.

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