Welcome to America’s richest cities, where median household incomes soar above the national average, where real estate is worth a pretty penny, poverty rates are low and unemployment rates are above average. A recent report released by 24/7 Wall St. used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) to identify the U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with the best of all these things. In other words, these are America’s richest cities.
The areas on the list that’s about to follow have a few things in common. These cities have a high concentration of jobs related to specific industries – industries that command high incomes. The percentage of residence holding a bachelors degree was regularly much higher than the national average, showing a correlation between education level and income. For example, the metro area of Boulder, Colorado (which you’ll find on the rich list) had the highest rate of degree holders in the nation in 2013: over 58 percent of residents over the age of 25 had a college degree. Compare that to the poorest metro areas where, in seven out of the poorest 10, fewer than 20 percent of adults held a bachelor’s degree.
9 out of ten of the richest cities also had unemployment rates below the national rate (7.4 percent) according to last year’s data, which isn’t exactly surprising. Where there are jobs, there’s usually money.
And so without further ado, here are the 10 richest cities in the US.
Median household income: $70,914
Napa is a desirable place to live – and people who can afford the price tag are willing to hand over the dough to make it their home. Most of Napa’s residents who weren’t home owners were, in last year’s data, paying monthly rental bills of over $1,200, pegging Napa’s rent market as one of the higher ones in the nation. As for those who do call themselves home owners: nearly 12 percent of Napa properties were listed as being worth in excess of $1 million. That’s the fourth highest out of all metro areas.
A typical Napa metro household earned just under $71,000 in 2013, a cut above the national median of $52,250. Napa’s median income is the 10th highest in the country. Meanwhile, unemployment in Napa was the 116th lowest, at just 6.3 percent, and the city’s poverty rate was the 10th lowest at 9 per cent.
Median household income: $71,442
Midland, Texas, has an oil drilling boom to thank for its skyrocketing growth. Advanced technologies like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling lead to a revival of interest in the Texas Permian Basin, which in turn started churning out unprecedented quantities of oil. In fact, reports from September 2014 warned that oil from the Permian is flowing so plentifully that it could start threatening oil prices. But there’s no sign of slowing down: just last week the Permian added yet another rig, cementing its place as the number one basin in the country by rig count.
All this oil bodes well for investors. According to IHS Global Insight, Midland, Texas, was the fastest growing metro area in America last year. The median income jumped by nearly $10,000 in the one year between 2012 and 2013, to $71,442.
9 per cent of households in the area earned in excess of $200,000 last year, and only 3.3 percent of residents went unemployed – the third lowest unemployment rate in the country.
Median household income: $71,604
If university degrees are a measure of intelligence, then Boulder, Colorado is one smart city. As mentioned above, Boulder had the highest percentage of degree holders in the whole of America by 2013’s figures. Count the fact that the city has the University of Colorado-Boulder as being a big factor: one of America’s thirty “Public Ivy League” schools, it’s also the flagship university of the state. With nearly 32,000 undergraduate and graduate students, it’s no wonder Boulder is turning out so many degree holders.
While intelligence and degrees do not always go hand in hand, education levels do tend to correlate well with income. Boulder sits at number 8 on the richest cities list, with a median household income of $71,604. Last year, 9.2 percent of households in the city earned at least $200,000. Boulder’s unemployment rate was 5.2 percent in 2013 – below the national rate.
Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts / New Hampshire
Median household income: $72,907
The Boston metro area boasts a high number of universities and research institutions, which likely contributes to its high education achievement levels and concentration of high paying jobs. Over 15 percent of employees in the Boston area were listed as working in professional and scientific careers in 2013, while the area wasn’t too far behind Boulder in the college degree count. Nearly 45 percent of residents held a bachelor’s degree in 2013.
The median household income in Boston-Cambridge-Newton was $72,907 last year, while one in 10 households reported an annual income of at least $200,000. The unemployment rate in Boston-Cambridge-Newton was sitting at 6.4 percent last year – a little below the national rate and the 128th lowest in the country. Meanwhile, the poverty rate was also relatively low: 10.4 percent, or the 23rd lowest in America as at last year’s figures.
Median household income: $76,831
Anchorage holds the title of Alaska’s most populous city, with more than 40 percent of the state’s total population residing there. It’s also Alaska’s economic center with over half the state’s output coming from the area. In 2013 the median household income was a tidy $76,831, and Anchorage claimed the second lowest poverty rate in the whole of the country (just 7.1 percent).
But all did not fare completely well for the city last year. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, “Alaska was the only state where real GDP decreased in 2013, primarily due to a decline in mining that resulted from lower [production] on the state’s North Slope.”
Anchorage has a subarctic climate and a coastline comprised mostly of treacherous mudflats. Perhaps Anchorage has other things going for it, though: forecasting agency Kiplinger once named it as the most tax-friendly city in the United States.
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California
Median household income: $77,363
The relationship between employment rates and income usually works like this: lower unemployment rate equals more jobs equals higher median income. But the Oxnard metro area is something of an exception. This part of sunny California had an unemployment rate 4 percent above the national rate according to the 2013 data, coming in at 7.8 percent.
And yet, Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura makes number 5 on the richest cities list, registering a median household income of $77,363 and a relatively wealthy overall profile. 10.6 percent of households had reported incomes of over $200,000 last year, placing the area high on the wealth ladder. The poverty rate in the Oxnard metro area was 11.9 percent, making it the 46th lowest in the country.
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
Median household income: $79,624
Real estate in the San Francisco metro area doesn’t come cheap: more than 17 percent of all owner-occupied housing was valued at over $1 million last year. Only San Jose tops it when it comes to the cost of purchasing a home. The inflated housing costs could be due to a shortfall in affordable real estate, or due to the high income levels in the area driving up prices – perhaps a combination of the two factors.
The industrial profile of the San Francisco area accounts for much of the wealth that can be found there. It’s a well-known technology center, with the information industry – together with professional, scientific and management sector – accounting for more than 21 percent of all employment in 2013. Education is also strong. While less than 30 percent of all Americans held an undergraduate degree last year, the population of the San Francisco listed 45 percent of its residents as degree holders. Unemployment in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward statistical area was 6.6 percent last year, under the national rate.
Median household income: $82,084
If you look at America as a whole, a mere 5 percent of all households earned over $200,000 last year. And yet, in the Bridgeport metro area, more than 18 percent reported income at that level. In fact, Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut, had the highest rate of earners in that bracket in all of the United States. Additionally, the area’s median household income was $82,084 – well above the national average.
The Bridgeport area is another where industry plays a large role in the concentration of income. 11 percent of employees held jobs in the financial sector in 2013. Unemployment was a close-to-average 7.2 percent.
It’s not all positive for the Bridgeport metro area, however. While the poverty rate was, on average, a comparatively good 9.6 percent (the 20th lowest in the nation), there’s still a very wide disparity between the high income earners and the low. In fact, the Gini index coefficient – which measures income equality – pegged the area as having the worst income inequality in the country.
Median household income: $90,149
Only two metro areas boasted a media household income of over $90,000 last year. Washington, D.C, was one of them. That, coupled with some other factors, pegs it at number two on the richest cities list. The area had the highest number of employees in the professional, scientific or management professions (a figure of over 1 in 5 people) which accounts largely for the high earnings – not to mention the area including the nation’s capital, bringing it government positions and other traditionally high-paying posts.
The unemployment rate in the Washington metro area was 5.4 percent last year, with the poverty rate the 8th lowest in the country (at 8.5 percent). As for the high bracket earners: nearly 14 percent of households raked in over $200,000 last year.
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
Median household income: $91,533
So what makes a city the richest in all of America? Ask the residents of San Jose, California. Their median household income last year was an impressive $91,533 – the highest in the country. You may recall Bridgeport had the highest percent of $200,000 plus earners – well San Jose was close behind in second place. More than 17% of households in the area earned over $200,000 in 2013. Education levels were also high, with 46.7 percent of adult residents (age 25 and older) holding a bachelor’s degree.
No doubt some of the technology sector’s disproportionately high earners are helping to pull up San Jose’s median score. Add then there’s the fact that major tech companies like Google and Apple are on the ground. 24/7 Wall St reports that those two companies awarded employees $3.2 billion and $2.3 billion, respectively, in stock-based compensation last year alone. Real estate prices are high, incomes are high, and the technology sector is booming: it’s no wonder San Jose is the number 1 richest city in America.