Seattle’s median household income broke the $80,000 mark in 2015, jumping nearly $10,000. It was the highest rise of any major U.S. city.
If your household earns less than $80,000 per year, you’re now in the minority in Seattle.
That stunning news came to light in data released Thursday by the Census Bureau. It shows that in 2015, Seattle’s median household income broke the $80,000 mark.
How? By jumping nearly $10,000 in just one year.
That’s the biggest increase among the 50 most-populous U.S. cities — and it wasn’t even close. No. 2 San Francisco’s jump lags behind us by more than $2,000.
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If this sounds like everyone in Seattle got a big, fat raise, that’s probably not what happened. A more likely scenario is that a lot of high-paying new jobs were created, pushing up the median.
Maybe it’s not surprising when you consider the pace at which Amazon and other Seattle companies recruit computer programmers who, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earn about $120,000 per year in this area, on average.
And naturally, as Seattle gets more expensive, some folks on the lower end of the income scale are being priced out.
According to the new data, more than one in five Seattle households have earnings above $150,000. Overall, Seattle’s median income remains third among big cities, behind San Francisco and San Jose.
Income growth also was strong in many suburbs. Kirkland, Federal Way, Auburn and Kent saw single-year gains in excess of $4,000.
And remarkably, in fast-growing Marysville, median household income surged more than $14,000 — that ranks as the 11th-biggest increase among all 589 U.S. cities and towns in the data.
The Census Bureau produces these annual income estimates only for places with at least 65,000 residents. Washington has 17 cities that meet this threshold.
Nationally, incomes also rose, though by a more modest $2,800. Still, that is the single biggest one-year increase on record, and the first time American incomes have gone up significantly since 2007.
Median income represents a middle point — half the households earn more, half the households earn less.
In Seattle, incomes grew dramatically for whites, Asians, blacks and multiracial people. But the gains were not across the board, as earnings for Hispanics stalled at around $49,000.
With a sharp rise in income, Seattle black households now have a median income of $37,000, which is on par with the national average. This was not the case in previous years. As I wrote in an earlier column, Seattle had one of the lowest median incomes for black households among major U.S. cities.
Even so, black households still lag behind the city’s other racial and ethnic groups, and earn less than half that of white households.
There was also a slight narrowing of the gender pay gap in Seattle in 2015. Women who work full time earned 80 percent of what men made — comparable to the national average — and up from 76 percent in 2014.
The new data also show that 12 percent of Seattle’s population lived below the poverty line in 2015 — down from 14.4 percent in 2014. While that marked the largest single-year decline in the past decade, it was still higher than the 10.6 percent poverty rate in 2009.