I never imagined there’d come a time when I’d write two consecutive columns about Sammamish, but here we are.
After I reported on new census data showing stratospheric incomes for Eastside cities, including a $183,000 median for Sammamish households, it generated a tremendous amount of response.
Some readers wanted to know more.
“I have been following your columns on median household incomes in the Seattle area. I have a question — what are these people doing to earn so much money?” one reader asked in an email. “It is also not clear if the household includes more than one wage earner. For example, if the household is made up of two people earning $50,000 a year, I might not feel like such a chump with my pathetic job.”
That last part was a little hard to read — nobody should feel like a chump for not being rich. But to answer his question: Yes, the census income data that I used in my column includes the contributions of every member of the household (age 15 years and up) who is employed, whether full-time or part-time. So two $50,000 salaries would indeed combine into a $100,000 household income.
And household structure is one reason the median is so high in Sammamish. In this small suburban city, most households (78%) are married couples, and many have two incomes. In most big cities — and even in a medium-sized city like Bellevue — there is a higher concentration of unmarried people, and therefore more one-person, single-income households.
There aren’t a lot of renters in Sammamish, either. About 88% of housing units are owner-occupied. In Bellevue, only a slim majority of housing units (53%) are owner-occupied.
To be sure, the main reason the median is so high in Sammamish is because its residents are largely in high-paying fields. Of the eight most common occupations, which account for 83% of all employed people living in Sammamish, five have median full-time earnings over $100,000.
The median represents the midway point — in other words, half make more, and half make less.
Tech jobs rank No. 1 for Sammamish residents — more than 6,500 people work in a computer-related field. That’s 20% of the roughly 33,000 employed residents of the city. The median salary is high even for tech, at $153,000 for full-time workers. For Seattle residents working in tech jobs, the median is $121,000.
Nearly as many Sammamish residents work in management occupations, with a median salary of $155,000. That’s about $50,000 higher than the median for Seattle residents in management jobs.
In Seattle and the three other Eastside cities included in the new data — Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond — tech and management are also the two most common occupations.
After tech and management occupations, sales-related jobs are third most common in Sammamish. This is not necessarily a field that we think of as lucrative (the national median for a full-time sales job is just $47,000), but it certainly can be. Among Sammamish residents, the median for people working in sales is $107,000.
The three most common occupations among Sammamish residents have more in common than six-figure salaries. All three are also male-dominated. But that’s not true of the fourth most common job, financial occupations, which has a median salary of $105,000. About 63% of Sammamish residents working in this field are women.
When you consider that a lot of Sammamish households are married couples with two incomes, it’s not that hard to understand how the median income could hit $183,000. That said, not everyone here is this affluent.
Nearly one in five Sammamish households make less than $100,000. And a small number — 6% — make less than $50,000.
Something to keep in mind, though: Income, as defined by the Census Bureau, includes many sources of money. Wages, of course, but also bonuses and tips, royalties, Social Security payments, rental-property income, interest and dividends, and so on.
However, it does not include capital gains, which is money made from the sale of stocks or other assets. Because of that, the census data can sometimes make an affluent household look poorer than it is — for example, a retired couple with no earnings, but with a very large stock portfolio.
One final note: There are about 25,000 people on Mercer Island, and I think I heard from nearly all of them, wondering why I left “The Rock” off the list of high-income cities. It wasn’t an oversight. The income estimates for 2018 released by the Census Bureau last month were only for cities of at least 65,000 people. On the Eastside, that includes Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish.
The Census Bureau separately publishes income estimates for smaller communities, using an average of five years’ worth of data — the next release will be an average of the 2014-2018 period. Those figures, which will include Mercer Island and other wealthy enclaves, come out in December.
Data released last year estimated Mercer Island’s median household income at $137,000. But the highest median in the state in last year’s release, at $225,500, was the town of Yarrow Point on Lake Washington.