There are only three cities among the nation’s 50 largest in which the number of households earning at least $200,000 is greater than the number earning less than $50,000.
And you guessed it — Seattle is one of them.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, which was released Thursday, shows the estimated median income for Seattle households hit an all-time high of $115,400 in 2022. That’s about 54 percent higher than the median income for all U.S. households, which was $74,750. In 2021, the estimated median household income in Seattle was $110,800.
The median is the midway point, meaning half the households earn more and half earn less.
Of Seattle’s 367,000 households, roughly 103,500 had earnings of more than $200,000 last year. That outnumbered the 86,600 that had earnings of less than $50,000.
The other two cities where more households are in the $200,000-and-higher bracket than the under-$50,000 one are, like Seattle, tech hubs: San Francisco and San Jose. They also had the highest median income among the 50 largest cities, with San Francisco estimated at $136,700 and San Jose, Calif., at $133,800. Seattle ranked third.
Detroit was at the other end of the spectrum. Only 2 percent of the city’s households were in the top tier for income, while 63 percent earned less than $50,000. Detroit’s median household income was $36,500 last year.
Households, as defined by the Census Bureau, include all types of housing except “group quarters,” such as college dorms, shelters, nursing homes, prisons, military barracks and so on. In Seattle, about 24,500 people, or 3.3 percent of the population, lived in a group-quarters setting in 2022, census data shows.
A household can be a family, a single person, or a group of unrelated people (such as roommates or unmarried partners). And naturally, there are differences in income between these various household types.
With Seattle’s high incomes comes a very high cost of living, of course. The new census data shows the median monthly housing costs for Seattle homeowners with a mortgage was $3,250, nearly double the U.S. median of $1,775. The median amount paid for a two-bedroom apartment by Seattle renters was about $2,200 last year, 70 percent higher than the U.S. median of around $1,300.
It’s so expensive to live in Seattle, you may wonder how anyone can raise a family here.
But the answer is simple: Make a lot of money. The median household income for a married Seattle couple with at least one child was $241,600 last year. There are nearly 43,000 married couples with kids under 18 in Seattle, according to the data.
Some parents scrape by on a lot less, though. The data shows roughly 5,500 married couples with kids in the city make less than $100,000.
For women living alone in Seattle, the median income was $55,200, which was significantly higher than the U.S. average of $34,200. For men living alone, it was $74,300, also much higher than the U.S. average, which was $43,800.
The city’s racial gaps in household income have persisted over the years. The new data shows median income for Seattle households headed by an Asian person was the highest, estimated at $130,000 in 2022. The median income for a household headed by a Native American/Alaska Native person was the lowest, estimated at $35,800.
The census release also includes income data for smaller cities (those with at least 65,000 residents). The city with the highest median household income in Washington — and, in fact, the highest among all U.S. cities included in the data — was Sammamish, at $223,800.
The four highest-income cities in Washington (among those with at least 65,000 residents) were all on the Eastside. After Sammamish came Bellevue ($153,800), Redmond ($152,900) and Kirkland ($130,600). Seattle ranked fifth in the state.
It’s worth taking a moment to define what the Census Bureau calls “household income.” I suspect many people see the term and think of it interchangeably with salaries or earnings, but that isn’t the case.
Household income includes contributions by all members of the household, whether related or not, age 15 and older. Of course, wages are a major part of household income, but it also includes interest, dividends, income from rental properties, royalties, public assistance and disability and retirement incomes (Social Security, pensions, etc.).
Because household income includes the contributions of everyone in the household, a larger household with two or more working adults can easily have a higher household income than an individual who lives alone, even if that individual has a high salary.