A new report titled “A Portrait of Marin” reveals stark income inequality between residents living in the wealthiest and those in the poorest parts of the county. The disparities extend to education and housing as well as health. Among the findings: a baby born in Ross will likely live 13 years longer than one born in Novato’s Hamilton neighborhood. We talk about the findings and recommendations.

Thomas Peters, president and CEO of the Marin Community Foundation
Kristen Lewis, co-director of the American Human Development Project
Makini Hassan, executive director of the Marin City Community Development Corporation
Mary Jane Burke, superintendent of schools for Marin County
Ben Mangan, president and CEO of Earn

  • Frugal

    I’ve only frequented Marin for short periods, but I did notice that there is a rich, or wannabe-rich exploitative element, that has no respect for human dignity. As for the poor, they clearly exist and they do the tedious jobs such as sales and construction, but I haven’t sensed any joy is their demeanor despite their living in Marin. In this way Marin seems a bit like Vail Colorado. If I had to choose whether to live in Marin or SF, I would definitely prefer liberal SF.

  • wandagb

    Since much of the income gap is attributed to immigration, why don’t we address the problem directly and stop importing more poverty? We have enough difficulty providing education, health, and jobs to our own people; why are we adding thousands of foreigners – many living here in violation of our immigration laws – to the county every year?

    Note: responding ‘we are a nation of immigrants’ is not an answer, nor is saying, “immigration is a Federal issue’. We need to talk about this and have our representatives act in our self interest, not against it.

    • Pcs Jmg

      Based on this thinking we could of started with your parents or in-laws, the Gomez family or with the Berger family. But it seems that even though they did not arrive as royalty, aristocrats or technocrats (my assumption) they are now doing well.

      Immigrants that get come to the U.S. in an air conditioned airplanes, with PhDs, a job waiting, who buy property in the upper class parts of the U.S. and drive around in a Mercedes speaking a foreign tongue, can never become real Americans.  They just changed country.  They were richer were they came from, than here.

      Real Americans are minted from the bottom of our society.  Our American dream is not a 3 bedroom house.  It is an opportunity for someone with nothing to have a chance to work hard from the bottom of the economy (not come in on the top) and improve their situation. 

       J. Michael

    • RegularListener

      Wanda, did you notice that the commentator responded exactly as as you predicted she would by dismissing such concerns with the cliche that “we are a nation of immigrants?”  Moreover, she obfuscated the crucial difference between illegal and legal immigration, as does almost everyone who does not want to admit that importing unlimited amounts of low and medium skilled labor has a negative effects on the wages and unemployment prospects of the low and medium skilled.who are already here and who have very limited means for improving their skills (which is extremely expensive to do and not always successful). The commentator noted “immigrants” are overrepresented in both the very high income and very low income neighborhoods in Marin. Well,obviously: This reflects the fact that LEGAL immigrants tend to be more high-skill than natives but ILLEGAL immigrants tend to less skilled than natives. And getting immigrants who are more skilled than natives is the whole point of having a LEGAL immigration system in the first place, and enforcing it rather than flouting it.  Current law requires those wishing to immigrate legally here  to have certain levels of education,skills  and English languague, and limits their overall numbers.because it is recognized that we already have plenty of low-skilled labor already here, and need to protect their wages & opportunities. That’s why LEGALS tend to be better educated than natives; problem is, powerful groups keep trying to get around these education and number requirements by tolerating ILLEGAL immigration. Bottom line: those supporting ILLEGAL (i.e. unlimited) immgration are harming the low & medium skilled by flooding their already glutted labor market. And if their labor market weren’t already glutted, they would have far higher wages, and less underemployment and unemploymnet.

  • You have to wonder how places such as Belvedere are still 94% white (according to the latest census)? Is this just tribal segregation, as so much of the world suffers from?

    If they don’t want people of color, and poor people, in their town, why would they support them elsewhere in the county?. The challenge for Marin is to build a society out of exclusionary villages.

  • Jonathan Douwe

    Income and political inequality are intertwined.  I am reminded of the “FLEAS” – the “Family Law Elite Attorney Society” formed by the current Chief Judge – Dufficy .which aligned high income earners with judges and attorneys and resulted in low earner, primarily female divorces not being treated fairly in the court Marin County system.  After investigation, the grand jury referred the judge’s behavior to the FBI on a 19-0 vote – but he remains on the court, as does Judge Addams who was also exposed.  As a side note, the local assemblyman is currently investigating the courts for favoritism.    

  • Tinalw

    One of the major drawbacks to Marin’s income gaps is that the residents are insultated from the diversity that other Bay Area communities have developed and embraced.  We need to understand this income gap as a loss for all of the local residents — rich and poor.   We are all losing out.

  • Micahp

    Me and my girlfriend moved from SF to Mill Valley because it was so much cheaper to rent!

  • The richest are the biggest consumers of personal services while the poorest are the biggest providers of personal services. It seems to me therefore having very rich people in an area would attract very poor people. That would account for at least some of the inequality no?

  • J. W. Harrison

    Are there any numbers on how many of those in poverty in Marin work in the homes, grounds or small businesses of the elite?     

  • Alie

    At the end of the hour a listener asked what he could do to help…. There is a campaign underway to support public schools in Marin called SchoolsRule Marin.  It is a coalition of 20 public school foundations in partnership with the Marin County Office of Education, benefiting every student in the public schools in Marin.  Our goal is to educate the community, solicit funds and support volunteerism in the public schools.  For more information visit our web site:

  • Erica

    I believe if there has ever been a county that can address the ‘achievement gap’ for students, it would be Marin County.

    I’d argue that the highly-successful model in college access and completion at 10,000 Degrees ( has been significant to closing that gap. Again and again we’ve seen the cycle of poverty broken when a student achieves a college degree and gains more opportunities.

    Kudos to the Marin Community Foundation and the American Human Development Project for creating the report.

  • Todd J.

    I grew up in Berkeley and Oakland and now reside in San Rafael with my wife and two children.  Nobody should wonder why anyone of means would not wish to escape the ridiculousness of the Oakland, Richmond or San Francisco schools and choose to move to Marin or Piedmont.
    There is a strong community in San Rafael of dedicated parents in the PTO and in my Coleman Neighborhood who work very hard to see that all the children in San Rafael get the best schooling possible.  If is unfair to expect the children of first generation immigrants to compare well on any standardized test with the children of the highly educated and affluent white majority that resides here.  What meaning could we derive comparing the on base percentages if many of the batters were born on third base? 
    When I went to Berkeley High 95% of Latino and Black teens never graduated.  How did diversity serve them or me?

  • Marin Resident

    To make believe that all immigrants are uneducated or unskilled is to continue to brush aside the issue. I know Doctors, Engineers, Accountants, Masters in Business Administration, Lawyers who are working as a server, landscapers, dishwashers, etc. just because they do not meet the certification of a board. I have many friends travel to latin America got sick and got cured by the same doctor that is now working as a dish washer in the US underpaid and overworked. I learned of this situation as someone else came to me and complaint of the manager was heard mistreating the dishwasher.

    I personally hear a Latino Spanish Speaking Police officer telling a day laborer “Look at your shoes, they F#$% still full of mud from crossing the boarder, and now you drinking in public, learn English” this was while he was training two other newly hire cadets.

    What chances do these officers have to not become racist since the sergeant is using such an unwelcome procedures. I know is easy to say launch a complaint and as I have in the past nothing is done or worst you become their target.

    • RegularListener

      Marin Resident, when you say, “to make believe that all immigrants are uneducated or unskilled is to continue to brush aside the issue” who is this remark directed at? I hope not me since I pointed out that  legal immigrants tend to be better-educated than natives , while the reverse is true of illegals. Also you do not clarify whether the underemployed doctors were legal or undocumented immigrants. This is important to know. since, anecdotes aside, it is well documented that illegals are less educated and legals more educated than natives.  I am hardly shocked that foreign-educated doctors may have to take diswashing jobs. This just shows that the overall  labor market, except in a few technical skill industries, is currently glutted, a problem that the commentator does not want to address. With a PhD & 2 MA’s I never thought of myself as “low-skilled” but found I could only get part-time $6-11/hour work after completing my PhD, and have never risen above poverty level, and I know others (mainly female) in similar situations.  What this indicates is that job markets even for the medium-skilled though well-educated is relatively glutted, so we hardly need unlimited (=illegal) immigration, which exacerbates the problem by depressing wages and inflating housing costs

  • Paul D.

    The only reason this became a “story” is that people assume that ALL of Marin is wealthy.  But the same discrepancy exists between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, or between Piedmont and East Oakland (both only a couple of miles apart).  The LA metro has numerous similar examples. It’s the reality of life in America — and especially California — today. Repeated far and wide. THAT’S the story which FORUM and the media should be telling: that our nation’s dynamics are increasingly mirroring those of the Third World…

  • Although the question was raised twice, each member of the panel deftly sidestepped the question of illegal immigration.  This question is not answered because it is the third rail of California politics.  Without some state and county policy which eliminates the exploitation of illegal immigrants by employers avoiding payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, and other safeguards not available to the undocumented, Marin County continues to be a permeable cell membrane sucking in the undocumented by osmosis because of welfare subsidies provided by a wealthy county and wealthy foundations, plentiful demand for personal services, and the desirable setting between the Pacific and the Bay.  The 1% and any other persons should be prosecuted if they circumvent the labor laws. Beyond this, a county personal services tax could be imposed on all personal services excluding child and disabled care, which goes directly to commuter benefits for non-solo transportation for those whose low incomes qualify them.  The present emphasis on affordable housing is a one-sided process where the one per cent have the luxury of never being faced with an extremely low income grouping of 40 or more units going in next to their existing dwellings.  The 1% is ever-so-tactfully exempted by the local councils and, in fact, the entire system.  It is those who are neither rich or poor who face the aggressive housing allocations from OneBayArea partly driven by spurious projections of job formation 2 and 3 times the rate of the last twenty years.  It is the people who will neither accept or be offered subsidies which are being driven out.

  • Mary

    The Marin Community Foundation report was high, highly misleading – junk science.  MCF cherry picked THE wealthiest enclave and THE poorest enclave to create an impression of gaps that aren’t nearly as wide as they claim.  I believe, as do others, that MCF published this report in order to provide HUD with the ammo they need to file suit to end Marin County’s long-standing open space and agricultural zoning.  

    The MCF report advocated that Marin end these commitments in order to build high-density housing.FURTHERMORE, residents of neighborhood with the lowest income actually live LONGER than the people in Ross, on average.  Hamilton was used in order to create a more dramatic, if not misleading, point. Marin County also spends more on social services on a percentage basis than any other county in the Bay Area.  We just built a $60 million Health and Wellness Campus which provides services to many illegal immigrants.I didn’t hear the Michael Krasny program but I have to assume he did not invite any guests to balance the Tom Peters/MCF point of view.  I don’t suppose anyone mention that this MCF report also stated that Marin County should end its long standing commitment to open space and organic agriculture.My neighborhood’s experience of MCF:  behind the sanctimonious veneer, they are well-known for enemy making and class/race warfare.  MCF resorted to name calling and legal threats after my decidedly middle class neighborhood opposed – due to legitimate concerns around flood control, wildlife, water, traffic etc. etc. – some pretty outrageous development plans.I’m also seeing a huge number of really hateful posts, especially by someone named “Frugal.”  My neighborhood here in Marin is very diverse and middle to upper middle class.  The MCF report is misleading and unfair and just plain junk science.  MCF needs new management.  

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