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Taking Count in 2021 Tipping Point Community's Study on Poverty in the Bay Area logo

Study Shows Government Response and Nonprofits Kept 200,000 Bay Area Residents from Falling into Poverty

PUBLISHED: Dec 07, 2021

Tipping Point and UC Berkeley release latest “Taking Count” study on poverty in the Bay Area, data show poverty rate remained steady during pandemic but strain fell disproportionately on low-income, Black, and Latinx communities.

SAN FRANCISCO (December 7, 2021) — Today, Tipping Point Community, with experts from the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard University, released findings from Taking Count, a study on poverty in the Bay Area. Taking Count surveyed the same group of Bay Area residents at multiple points before the COVID-19 pandemic, and again in early 2021. 

The latest results shed light on the critical role government support has played during the pandemic to keep people from falling into poverty despite dramatic economic disruption. The study also provides insights into the unequal negative effects the pandemic has had on low-income residents, particularly in Black and Latinx communities, and the continued economic fragility experienced by many throughout the Bay Area. 

The following key learnings emerged from the study:Taking Count in 2021 Tipping Point Community's Study on Poverty in the Bay Area logo

  • Poverty rate remained steady – 1 in 5 Bay Area residents are living in poverty, similar to before the pandemic.
  • Government benefits prevented more people from falling into poverty – Approximately 200,000 people were kept from falling below the poverty line in the Bay Area because of government interventions.
  • Nonprofits were called upon for more support – Bay Area households that were facing housing and economic insecurity were more than twice as likely to look to nonprofits for support during the pandemic than before the pandemic.
  • Job loss and the mental, physical, and emotional strain of the pandemic weighed disproportionately on low-income, Black, and Latinx community members – As an example, Black and Latinx residents were 50% more likely than other residents to report declines in health during the pandemic. 

“This study shows that the safety net provided by government and nonprofits is essential and effective,” said Sam Cobbs, CEO of Tipping Point Community. “Because of the quick changes made at the start of the pandemic, we saw household poverty remain steady. Is it enough? Absolutely not, especially when we see that those hit hardest were the ones who were already struggling. Without further bold action, we risk a ‘return to normal’ in terms of durable poverty and inequality. We cannot afford to take that step backwards.” 

Taking Count provides a holistic and nuanced picture of poverty and well-being in the Bay Area. The study surveys a representative sample of Bay Area residents over multiple years, asking the same people questions about their economic, mental, and physical well-being. 

Daniel Schneider, co-author of Taking Count who is Professor of Public Policy and Sociology at Harvard University and a former UC Berkeley professor noted: “When we began partnering with Tipping Point to study poverty in the region, we had no idea that this historic disruptive crisis was about to hit. But these data end up giving us remarkable insight into how COVID-19 affected the Bay Area.” 

Irene Bloemraad, Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley, who also co-authored the report added: “While the historic governmental assistance and crucial non-profit support prevented economic catastrophe for many, the stark racial inequalities we found before the pandemic, were only exacerbated as a result of COVID-19. We must continue to shed light on these inequities so we can begin to balance the scales.”

Read the Full Report here.


About Tipping Point Community

Tipping Point’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty for people in the Bay Area who don’t have the resources to meet their basic needs. Since 2005, Tipping Point has invested more than $300 million for housing, early childhood, education, and employment solutions in the region. Our board covers 100% of our operating costs, so every dollar donated goes where it’s needed most. Last year, our grantees provided life-changing services to more than 500,000 of our neighbors across the Bay Area. Visit us at

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