According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 42 metropolitan areas around the country boast a median household income of $70,000 or more — sometimes tens of thousands more. These are America’s wealthiest municipalities, and they share several factors in common: They tend to have well-educated populations, thriving job markets, and pricey real estate.
Using these metrics, 24/7 Wall St. has identified America’s richest cities or metropolitan areas. Some aspects of this ranking might seem surprising.
Utah’s Provo-Orem metropolitan area in Utah, for instance, squeaks in at number 42. Not everybody has heard of Barnstable, Mass. — it’s on Cape Cod, and encompasses the old Kennedy family stomping grounds of Hyannis — but it’s number 39. And while it’s generally accepted that California’s Napa Valley is America’s wine capital, the fact that it constitutes the fifth-wealthiest area in the country might not be common knowledge.
Four of the top ten most affluent corners of our nation, in fact, are found in the Golden State. And the richest of them all is the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara region, running along a nine-mile axis southeast of Palo Alto in the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area.
If it were a separate nation instead of a small segment of California, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, with its median household income of $117,474, would place second in a list of the richest countries in the world — after only Qatar. By way of comparison, the equivalent income in the prosperous Middle Eastern oil-trading center of Dubai, known as “the city of gold,” is a mere $81,000.
Maybe this wouldn’t be so surprising if the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara corridor were identified with the name by which it is better known: Silicon Valley — the headquarters of Google, Facebook, Apple, Uber, and countless smaller tech and tech-support companies, as well as Tesla, Stanford University, and other blue-chip concerns.
There’s a downside to the area’s wealth, however. According to a report on income inequality by the California Budget & Policy Center, Silicon Valley’s economic growth has been “top heavy,” with the gap between high-income families and those in the low- and middle-income brackets constantly widening, with “families toward the lower end of the economic spectrum…further squeezed by a rising cost of living.” And this is what it actually costs to live in America’s most expensive cities.