Nine Cities Where Wealth Is Soaring

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9. Big Spring, Texas
> Pct. increase in income: 17.2%
> Median household income: $40,943
> Poverty rate: 20.4%
> Population: 27,763

Big Spring is less than an hour from Midland, Texas, which is widely considered the epicenter of the state’s oil boom. Mining has traditionally been a major industry in Big Spring, accounting for at least 10% of the city’s economy in recent years. The sector has not grown considerably, but the state’s energy boom across the state is still a likely factor in the city’s sharp income growth. Strong growth in the city’s housing market in recent years reflects to some extent the region’s rising incomes. While home prices have not been particularly high in Big Spring in the past five years, they had increased by nearly 25% between the three-year period starting in 2007 and the three-year period starting in 2010, among the most dramatic home value increases nationwide.

8. Manhattan, Kan.
> Pct. increase in income: 17.4%
> Median household income: $42,950
> Poverty rate: 24.8%
> Population: 54,162

Like many cities with rapidly rising incomes, the median household income of Manhattan residents remained well below the national median. Nearly 25% of residents lived below the poverty line during the three-year period ending in 2012, considerably higher than the national rate of 15.7%. The poverty rate in the city, however, decreased by 7.3 percentage points since the prior three-year period, the second-largest decline in the nation. Manhattan also has had among the nation’s lowest unemployment rates since 2007, not exceeding 5.0%, even during the peak of the recession. One explanation for the rise in income could be industry growth. Manhattan had among the smallest finance sectors during the three years ending in 2009, comprising just 3.5% of employment, half the proportion the sector represented across the nation. Over the next three years, however, the sector’s share of Manhattan’s employment grew to 5.8%, closer to the national share of 6.6%.

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7. Stillwater, Okla.
> Pct. increase in income: 17.5%
> Median household income: $32,567
> Poverty rate: 30.1%
> Population: 46,143

Stillwater residents were among the nation’s poorest during the three-year period starting in 2007, with a median income of just $27,707 per year. Over the next three years, however, median household income had increased by 17.5%, or $4,860 a year. The city’s economy also likely will benefit from Belgian aerospace supplier ASCO’s decision in 2012 to invest $100 million and move its Aerospace USA division headquarters to Stillwater. The move was expected to bring at least 600 new future jobs, and company officials hoped to benefit from the presence of Oklahoma State University, located in Stillwater. Like several other cities with the highest income growth, the unemployment rate in Stillwater has remained relatively low during the past five years, at just 4.2% as of December 2012.

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6. Bentonville, Ark.
> Pct. increase in income: 17.9%
> Median household income: $64,695
> Poverty rate: 8.5%
> Population: 37,033

Median annual household income in Bentonville grew by nearly $10,000 between the two three-year periods beginning in 2007 and in 2010. This was a higher nominal increase than in every city reviewed except for Saratoga, Calif. The retail trade sector made up a larger portion of Bentonville’s economy than it did in any other city between 2007 and 2009. Since 2007, the sector grew by nearly 20%, compared with just 11.6% in the sector nationwide. Walmart, which reported strong growth over the past five years and is headquartered in the city, may account for much of the sector’s growth. The world’s largest retailer employs tens of thousands in northwest Arkansas.