Back to Press

Study Reveals “Solano Gap” - Solano Lagging Behind Other Bay Area Counties

Thu Apr 18 2024

(Solano County, Calif.) - During months of community engagement, California Forever regularly heard from Solano County residents concerned about the lack of good paying jobs, long commutes, cuts to government services due to declining tax revenue, and a general sense that Solano County is being left behind the rest of the region. A new study prepared by Michael Genest, former California Director of Finance, details this significant economic gap between Solano County and its neighboring counties. 

“The numbers are clear – there is a significant economic gap between Solano County and its neighbors in the Bay Area,” said Michael Genest, the state’s former Director of Finance under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Worse still, on the most important measure – household income – the gap has grown sharply. Twenty years ago, average household income in Solano County was 10% lower than in other Bay Area counties. Since then, the gap has grown so much that the average Solano County household makes 30% less than in other Bay Area counties. In just the last two decades, the gap has tripled. As a result, the average Solano household makes a full $40,000 less per year than the Bay Area average. 

The study was completed by Michael Genest, who served as California’s Director of Finance from December 2005 to December 2010 under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Genest received his master's degree from the University of California at Berkeley, Graduate School of Public Policy in 1980 and his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from San Jose State University in 1978. Before that Genest was a journeyman carpenter in the Napa chapter of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

The East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy initiative proposes to build a new community, solar farms, and open space projects in east Solano County. Doing so would bring 15,000 local jobs paying at least $88,000/year (125% of county average), new paths to middle-class home ownership with $400 million in downpayment assistance for Solano residents and their children, and a new source of clean power for the entire region. California Forever looks forward to sharing more in the coming months, including details about new jobs and employers, new entertainment options for Solano residents, and the new tax revenues that would be created by the project.

The full study is available to download here.

Key takeaways:

Household income

The income gap between Solano County households and those in other Bay Area counties has tripled in just two decades. In 2002, Solano households made about $6,000 less per year than the average household in other Bay Area counties. By 2022, that gap grew to an average of $40,000 less per year. 

  • 2002 average household income: 

    • Solano County - $60,800

    • Bay Area - $66,900

      • Gap = ~10 percent 

  • 2022 average household income

    • Solano County - $93,000

    • Bay Area - $133,000

      • Gap = ~30 percent

Note: The major component of household income is wages for employed members of the household. In 2022, the average worker in Solano County made $66,570 per year compared to an average of $110, 684 in the other Bay Area counties. This gap of about 40 percent is the major factor that drives the gap in household incomes. (Source: California Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.)

Employment of “working age” residents

When compared to all the counties in the Bay Area, Solano County has the smallest share of  employed “working age” (25-64) residents. In 2022, Solano County was 4 percent below the statewide employment rate while San Mateo county was 5.7 percent above the statewide rate. This drastic gap directly reflects the limited availability of attractive employment opportunities currently available to working age Solano County residents. As a result, many Solano residents opt out of the workforce altogether rather than facing long commutes.


Unemployment in Solano County has outpaced the rate in other Bay Area counties over the last two decades. In 2002, Solano County’s unemployment was lower than the rest of the Bay Area. But over time, that has flipped and today, Solano County consistently suffers from a higher unemployment rate than the rest of the region.  In 2022, Solano County had an unemployment rate at 9.8 percent - 21 percent higher than the average of the other Bay Area counties, reflecting the greater degree of economic opportunity in the other Bay Area counties. Higher unemployment rates result in a greater demand for social services and support, further straining county finances and limiting the quality of services provided to Solano County residents.

High-wage jobs

Solano County has the fewest percentage of ‘high-wage” jobs in the entire Bay Area. Only seven percent of jobs in Solano County pay in the range of the top 10 percent of jobs in California - and another seven percent fall into the top 20 percent of wages. This compares to 20 percent and 14 percent in the San Jose area. 

Medi-Cal enrollment

A key measure of Solano residents' economic security is the percentage of residents who have to rely on MediCal for their health care insurance, rather than accessing private insurance through their employer. Solano County has the highest Medi-Cal dependency of any of the nine Bay Area counties.

Government revenues and services

Solano County receives less tax revenue than any other Bay Area county on a per capita basis. Bay Area Counties, on average, receive $2,714 per resident in tax revenue (from both local taxes and intergovernmental transfers from the state and federal governments). In contrast, Solano County only receives $1,936 per resident – a full 30% less. In California, counties are the main providers of services such as mental health, social services, and homelessness assistance. To a large extent, the county’s tax revenue is the main driver of the amount and quality of the public services they can provide. This presents significant challenges for quality of life in Solano County.

Hear from Solano County residents

Click here to listen to Solano County residents speak about the Solano Gap.

“As the former chair of the Vallejo Economic Development Commission, I can tell you from firsthand experience how wide the economic gap is between Solano County and our neighbors,” said David Cates, a Vallejo resident. “I’ve reviewed countless proposals to spur economic growth in our county and none even come close to the promise and potential that California Forever has proposed through the East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative. We have a real opportunity to close this gap and I encourage voters to learn more!” 

“An investment opportunity of this magnitude for our community is unprecedented,” said Rebecca Craig, former president of the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce. “The development of a new full-service community that includes homes, parks, good paying jobs, renewable energy, and new schools among other services, but that also incorporates hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in existing downtowns allows all boats to rise and all residents to benefit. It’s time for Solano to be a leader in fixing, not exacerbating, the Bay Area’s inequities.”

“As a rancher who grazes sheep and cattle adjacent to the proposed new community in East Solano, I couldn’t be more excited,” said Jesus Gonzalez, a small business owner from Dixon. “For many, the American dream is to own our own home and have a family. California Forever offers an opportunity to create new jobs close to home in Solano County, expand access to education and health care, and make the American Dream a reality for all of Solano."

“My great-grandparents first moved to Solano County in 1905 and my family has been here ever since. Though, my daughters might be the first ones in my family to move away simply because of how unaffordable it has become,” said Michael Fortney, California Forever’s Director of Partnerships. “I joined California Forever because I believe the East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative is the best chance for us to close the Solano Gap and keep our kids and grandkids right here.”