5. Trenton-Ewing, N.J.
>Median household income: $73,890
>Population: 367,063(140th highest)
>Unemployment rate: 7.7% (123rd lowest)
>Pct. households below poverty line: 11.4% (34th lowest)
The median home value in the Trenton metro area was $282,700. While this is more than $100,000 above the U.S. value, it is significantly less than many other rich metros such as San Jose, Washington D.C. and Boston. Yet some of the nine townships in Mercer County, which comprises most of the metro area, are very affluent. For instance, the median household income in the West Windsor township was $137,625 a year in 2010, while the median income in the Princeton township, as of 2010, was $107,071. The most notable employers in the region are Princeton University and NRG Energy, a utility company with over $8 billion in revenue.
4. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.
>Median household income: $74,623
>Population: 831,771 (63rd highest)
>Unemployment rate: 10.1% (93rd highest)
>Pct. households below poverty line: 11.3% (32nd lowest)
Home prices in the Oxnard area, part of the Greater Los Angeles region, declined by more than 32% between 2007 and 2011, including a 5.5% dip between 2010 and 2011. Despite that, the median home value in the Oxnard area was $433,100, the eighth-highest among all metro areas. Furthermore, 6% of homes were worth at least $1 million, triple the U.S. rate. Renting is not particularly cheap either. The median monthly rent of $1,382 was the fourth-highest rent in the country and higher than the national median by more than $500.
3. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.
>Median household income: $77,289
>Population: 925,899 (56th highest)
>Unemployment rate: 8.2% (163rd lowest)
>Pct. households below poverty line: 9.4% (13th lowest)
In Bridgeport, 12% of the residents work in the finance and insurance industry, the third-highest percentage of all metro areas. The metropolitan area is home to numerous hedge funds, where executives can earn millions of dollars annually. Furthermore, many people who work on Wall Street also settle in western Connecticut. More than one in five households earned at least $200,000 in the area, the highest percentage of all metro areas in the country. Almost 14% of homes were worth at least $1 million as of 2011, the fourth highest percentage in the country.
2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
>Median household income: $84,012
>Population: 1,865,450 (31st highest)
>Unemployment rate: 9.9% (105th highest)
>Pct. households below poverty line: 10.6% (21st lowest)
The San Jose area is home to some of America’s top technology companies, which employ highly-compensated engineers and other technology professionals. More than 45% of adult residents had at least a college degree as of 2010, according to a recent study by the Brookings Institute, making San Jose the second-most educated metropolitan region in the country. The median home value as of 2011 was $618,000 and 18.7% of homes were worth at least $1 million, both the highest in the country. Despite having the second-largest median household income in 2011, the area’s unemployment rate of 9.9% was significantly higher than the national rate of 8.9% as California has suffered especially hard from the housing bust.
1. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va.
>Median household income: $86,680
>Population: 5,703,948 (7th highest)
>Unemployment rate: 5.8% (29th lowest)
>Pct. households below poverty line: 8.3% (5th lowest)
The Washington area is filled with tens of thousands of highly-skilled professionals in a host of different industries, from consulting to law to defense contracting. In fact, the Brookings Institute dubbed the area the most educated in the country because 46.8% of adult residents in 2010 had at least a college degree. The median home value in the area was more than double the national figure of $173,600, while 4.5% of homes were worth over $1 million, compared to 2% nationally. The median rent of $1,391 in Washington D.C. was higher than all but the San Jose and Honolulu metropolitan areas.
-Michael B. Sauter, Alexander E.M. Hess, Sam Weigley