Bursting the bubble: ‘Unsafe’ communities differ most in education

June 6, 2017 — by Daniel Bessonov and Ethan Ko

Needless to say, Saratoga residents live in a bubble located at the epicentre of the tech-capital of California.

With the level of technology that the valley provides comes comes a certain feeling of security and safety — a feeling that is often absent in areas outside the nucleus of the Silicon Valley in communities as close as San Jose.

In fact, according to NeighborHoods Scout, Saratoga residents have a 1 in 2000 chance of becoming victims of a violent crime, nearly 63 percent percent lower than the next safest town in California: Atherton, which is seven times smaller than Saratoga.

Thus, it’s no surprise that many Saratoga residents have distorted views on what life is like outside of the serene, suburban community that Saratoga is. In fact, West San Jose, located just 3 miles away, is perceived to be dangerous, as many Saratoga residents believe it has high crime rates.

However, this is simply not the case.

Junior Gordon Yang, who moved from San Jose to Saratoga seven years ago, said that he sees no differences between safety levels in both cities.  

“Thinking back, the community in Saratoga is not that much better than the one in San Jose,” said Yang. “I enjoyed the community facilities in San Jose such as the pool, but still appreciate the quiet that Saratoga provides.”

In fact, Yang has never witnessed a gun crime nor a burglary, both activities that many believe occur often in San Jose.

While the two areas are quite similar, boasting green public parks, community centers and outstanding education programs, the costs of living are drastically different, providing an insight as to why the stigma exists.

For instance, Yang attributed his move to Saratoga not to San Jose’s lack of safety but rather to the fact that his family believed that Saratoga would offer Yang a better education.

A 2013 study conducted by the California Department of Education’s (CDE) compared Leland High School in San Jose and Saratoga High School in terms of Academic Performance Index (API), a common indicator for educational excellence.

Both schools scored above the statewide average of 789 out of 1000 points in 2013, with Saratoga coming out with an edge on Leland with a score of 938 as opposed to 895 (Mercury News).

According to US News, Saratoga is also ranked in the top 200 public high schools in the U.S., while Leland is not.

This difference in caliber may be part of the cause of the high cost of living in Saratoga.

According to Zillow, an average house in Saratoga costs almost $2.4 million while the average one in San Jose cost $870, 700 in 2016.

As a result, some may think that Saratoga is a safer place to live just because of its expensive real estate — a trend that is more likely attributed to the high level of education the Saratoga district provides.

It thus seems that this difference in perception about the safety of Saratoga and its nearby communities is not a result of fact based reasoning, rather simply the result of many Saratoga residents not breaking out of their sheltered communities.

This trend seems to manifest itself on a national level as well — there are many more Saratoga-like communities in America, where better education correlates to higher housing prices.

For instance, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, largely viewed as the best school in the United States, is located in Alexandria, Va. For the third consecutive year, the school was ranked first in Newsweek’s annual "America's Top High Schools" rankings in 2016 and fifth in the US News & World Report's 2016 High School Rankings (Wikipedia).

Similar to Saratoga, housing in Alexandria is quite expensive. According to AreaVibes, an average house in Alexandria costs approximately $494,400 which is noticeably higher than compared to a neighboring city Baltimore’s average of $155,000. Although Alexandria is not necessarily a safer or “better” town, its housing prices are higher than the average due to the prestige of the high school.

However, Alexandria’s crime ratings are not as stellar as Saratoga’s. Despite being 28 percent safer than the national average, the city cannot compare to Saratoga’s 60 percent rating (AreaVibes). That said, Alexandria still boasts incredible education, which may explain its expensive housing.

The trend of better education correlating to expensive housing ties back to the notion that certain communities are thought to be safer than others simply due to their more expensive real estate. This, however, is clearly false, as even on a national level, more expensive housing is mostly a byproduct of quality educational institutions.

 

 

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