In one community near Lake Sammamish, the median annual household income is just about $125,000 — which some say is “about as middle class as it gets.”
What is a middle-class income in King County?
That’s what some commenters were arguing about on my last column, in which I explored how the middle class is losing ground in King County.
The threshold King County Executive Dow Constantine used for high household income — $125,000 — is significantly higher than the countywide median ($71,800 in 2013), but it still seemed much too low to some readers:
“$125K is about as middle class as it gets. Most people I know make around that and they are certainly not rich by any measure.”
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So let’s see what life’s like in a place where a $125,000 household income is literally the middle.
I looked at the median income for all of King County’s nearly 400 census tracts and found the one closest to $125,000 as its median household income.
The winning tract is in Sammamish — in an area that stretches inland from southeast Lake Sammamish — and home to about 3,200 people. According to 2014 income estimates from Nielsen, this tract has a median household income of $124,600. In other words, half the households here earn more, and half earn less.
If you’re looking to live here, you’re probably not a renter: Nearly 90 percent of households own their home, compared with 56 percent countywide.
The cheapest single-family home for sale right now has an asking price of $550,000, but you could easily spend upward of $1 million, especially if you want waterfront property. Townhomes are less expensive, but there aren’t that many.
Not cheap, but in return you get to live in the friendliest town in America, according to a 2012 ranking by Forbes.
And who are these friendly folks? Non-Hispanic whites make up 80 percent of the population in this census tract, significantly whiter than the county as a whole, which is 63 percent white. Asians, at 11 percent, are easily the next-largest group. If any black people live in this tract, the Census Bureau couldn’t find them — the black population is estimated at zero.
Single or divorced people are a rare sight here. Nearly nine out of 10 households in this census tract are married couples either with or without kids. And for those who do have kids, they enjoy some of the top public schools in Washington.
This tract is in the Issaquah School District, which ranks among the best in the state: 86 percent of kids who graduate from high school go on to college, compared with a statewide average of 62 percent.
Even the district’s alternative school, Tiger Mountain, is “set on a beautiful flora rich campus with classrooms open to a lush green courtyard,” according to its website.
Just about everyone in this census tract who works has a white-collar job, and one out of five are employed in management positions. Tech jobs are also big here, which is not surprising given the proximity to the Microsoft campus. In 40 percent of married-couple-with-kids households, only Dad works.
Almost everyone has a car, and 4 out of 5 drive to work alone. And they have their pick of cars to choose from: 46 percent have three or more vehicles in their household.
It’s a very safe place to live, with a violent-crime rate so low (1 for every 4,500 residents in 2013), Bellevue looks like Detroit in comparison. Your chances of dying from a gunshot wound are three times lower in Sammamish than in parts of South King County.
Property crime and theft are a bit more of a concern — which surely explains why in this census tract households spend 81 percent more on home-security systems than the county average.
Perhaps the nicest benefit of a Sammamish address? Longevity. According to life-expectancy data from Public Health — Seattle & King County, someone from Sammamish can expect to live to age 84.5 — that’s nearly six years longer than the national average. Ninety-two percent of Sammamish adults report having good to excellent health.
Overall, a nice life in many people’s minds, to be sure — if also far from middle-class.
Said another commenter on my previous column:
“You can really tell Seattle is a wealthy area when you have people arguing that $125,000 income isn’t well-off. Talk about out of touch with reality!!!”
With that in mind, in the next column I’ll look at the other end of the scale: the census tract that has a median household income of $35,000. Can you guess where it is?