It’s no secret that a lot of wealth is concentrated along the eastern shores of Lake Washington. Even so, this is an eye-popping stat.

Among the 634 U.S. cities with at least 65,000 residents, only six had 5% of its households with an average income of more than $1 million in 2021.

One of those six is on the Eastside: Kirkland.

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According to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average income for the top 5% of households in Kirkland — that’s equal to roughly 1,900 households out of the city’s 38,000 — was $1.05 million.

The five other places where the top five percenters had an average household income exceeding $1 million were Bethesda, Maryland; Palo Alto, California; Newport Beach, California; Newton, Massachusetts; and Redwood City, California.

One other Eastside city just missed the cut for million-dollar incomes among the top 5%: Sammamish, at $980,000. Bellevue ($829,000) and Redmond ($787,000) also rank high among U.S. cities.


In Seattle, the top 5% of households, which is equal to about 17,600 households, had an average income of $676,000. Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, that ranked fourth behind San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and San Jose, California.

The Census Bureau only produced these 2021 income figures for places with at least 65,000 residents. There are, of course, many wealthy enclaves with smaller populations where the highest-earning households certainly average more than $1 million. King County has a number of such places. But those smaller communities tend to have more uniform populations composed mainly of homeowners and families. Those types of households have the highest incomes, on average.

More densely populated places often have a wider variety of household types. They typically have more renters and single people who typically have lower incomes than homeowners and families. So it's an impressive degree of affluence that the top 5% of households in those cities can have such high incomes.

Is WA a rich state? That depends — take a county-by-county look

Nationally, the average income for the top 5% of households was much lower than Seattle or the Eastside, at $458,000.

Among the cities with 65,000 people, it takes a lot less money to make it into the top 5% in some places. The "poorest" top five percenters were in Lafayette, Indiana, with an average household income of about $171,000. Many of the places where the highest-earning households earn less than $200,000 are in the Midwest or Rust Belt states.


Among the 20 Washington cities with populations of 65,000 or greater, the top 5% had the lowest average income in Spokane Valley, at $212,000.

Kirkland, Sammamish, Bellevue, Redmond and Seattle are the only cities in Washington where the top five percenters had an average income higher than the national figure of $458,000. The next highest after Seattle was Vancouver, where the top tier averaged $429,000.

Household income, as defined by the Census Bureau, 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 such as Social Security and pensions.

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 person has a high salary.

One final note on the data: Typically, when I write about income, I use a median figure rather than an average. I did not for this column because the Census Bureau only produces an average income figure for the top 5% of households.