A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Seattle’s median household income hitting a record $110,000. But the growing affluence isn’t confined to city limits.
Census Bureau data shows the median household income for our entire metro area also hit a record high last year, at $101,700. That’s up from $94,000 in 2019 — an 8.2% increase, not adjusted for inflation. The Seattle metro area includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
The bureau did not release 2020 income figures for metro areas due to difficulties in data collection during the pandemic.
Nationally, the median household income was $69,700 last year. The median represents the midway point — in other words, half the households earned less and half earned more.
Among the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., the Seattle area had the fourth-highest median household income, trailing only the San Jose, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. metros. In 2019, the Seattle metro ranked sixth for income — we leapfrogged two New England metros to move into fourth place: Boston and Bridgeport, Connecticut.
For some perspective on the area’s fast-growing affluence, consider that in 2010 — not very long ago — Seattle only ranked 11th among the 100 largest metros. The median household income then was $63,100. Among the large metro areas with higher medians than Seattle in 2010 were Baltimore and Poughkeepsie, New York.
Between 2019 and 2021, the biggest increase in median household income among large metros was in Stockton, California, up nearly 17% to $80,700. Only one large metro saw incomes decline: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the median fell by 4% to $58,300.
The smallest increase among the 99 metros where incomes grew was in San Francisco — up just 1.1%, to $116,000.
Census data shows there were nearly 1.6 million households in the Seattle metro area in 2021. Households, as defined by the census, include all types of housing except “group quarters,” such as college dorms, shelters, nursing homes, prisons, military barracks and so on.
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.
The household type with the highest median income in the Seattle metro was a married couple with children, at around $156,000. At the other end of the spectrum, for women living alone, the median income was $47,100, and for men living alone, it was $56,400.
Among racial/ethnic groups, households headed by an Asian person had the highest median income at $132,900. White (non-Hispanic) households had the next highest, at $104,000. The medians for households headed by a Native American or Black person were the lowest, at $64,300 and $63,200, respectively.
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.