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Living on the poverty line in San Francisco

PUBLISHED: Nov 17, 2016

Tipping Point launches awareness campaign simulating life on the line

In San Francisco, rental prices are the highest in the nation and the average annual family income is $153,000. After taxes, that’s nearly five times the $24,300 a year that families living on the poverty line have to survive on.

Today, this is a reality for 1 in 10 families struggling to make ends meet in the Bay Area.

And if you’re living on five times less than the average, even every day necessities feel five times as expensive. Milk that costs almost $5 feels as if it costs $24. A $23 Thanksgiving turkey becomes $114. A $73 monthly bus pass is the equivalent of $362.

It’s hard to break the cycle of poverty when the budget barely covers the basics.

To bring awareness to the cost of living in poverty, the team here at Tipping Point Community, in partnership with leading Bay Area advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P) launched our “Poverty Line Prices” awareness campaign on November 17.

The interactive campaign calls on users to visit and enter their salary (or use the San Francisco average) to see how expensive items like rent, groceries and schoolbooks would feel if they were living on the poverty line.

Users are also encouraged to donate to Tipping Point through the site by donating the value of basic needs that have been marked-up according to their salary. Information and content can be shared using the hashtag #povertylineprices.

To further bring the experience of living in poverty to life, we created an online film that captures the reactions of shoppers as they purchase groceries with prices inflated by 500%. The film was shot at a grocery store in Nob Hill — one of San Francisco’s most affluent neighborhoods — where the median rent is $5,242 per month.

“Every day, more than one million Bay Area residents are forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying the rent, buying medicine and paying for school books. And, lack of financial resources is just one of the many challenges facing those living below the poverty line,” said Tipping Point CEO and founder, Daniel Lurie.

“In a region with so many resources and so much creativity, we simply have to do more to help break the cycle of multigenerational poverty in the Bay Area.”

Both Tipping Point and GS&P hope the campaign will fuel the conversation around poverty and income inequality in San Francisco.

“The Bay Area is a tale of two cities: the haves and the have-nots,” said Rich Silverstein, co-chairman and partner of GS&P.

“We wanted people to get a small sense of the reality of living on the poverty line to truly understand the importance of Tipping Point’s mission.”

The campaign will also appear through strategically placed contextual media buys. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, leading up to Black Friday, coupon inserts featuring marked-up prices will run in the San Francisco Chronicle. The inserts will resemble grocery store flyers, showing items with the inflated prices to reflect what it feels like for those living on the poverty line.

Visit to learn more.

Poverty guideline is a federal standard
San Francisco average salary: US Census Bureau
Average item costs:
National price for textbooks:

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