Special Report

America's Richest (and Poorest) Cities

5. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H.
> Median household income: $71,738
> Population: 4,640,802 (10th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.1% (68th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.7% (24th lowest)

Compared with other metropolitan areas, the percentage of households earning over $200,000 in the Boston area is among the highest in the nation, at nearly 13%. One reason for this may be residents’ high levels of educational attainment. Last year, nearly 43% of adults over 25 had a college degree, well in excess of the national rate of 29.1%. Also, relatively high percentages of the workforce are involved in high-paying industries like financial services, as well as scientific and professional work — 8.4% and 14.0%, respectively. As of 2012, the Boston area had an unemployment rate of just 6.1%, two percentage points better than the 8.1% national rate, while job growth has picked up in recent years. Further, over 95% of residents have health insurance, one of the highest rates in the nation.

4. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
> Median household income: $74,922
> Population: 4,455,560 (11th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.1% (148th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.9% (51st lowest)

Last year, the San Francisco area had one of the highest percentages proportions of working residents employed in high-paying professional services fields, at nearly 18%. The area’s highly skilled workforce likely contributed to its exceptionally high median income, which was close to $75,000 last year. Alongside high incomes, however, the area has some of the nation’s steepest housing costs, with median gross rent at nearly $1,400 per month. According to Trulia, no housing market is less affordable than San Francisco, where the middle class could afford to buy just 14% of available homes in October. The cost of living in the city of San Francisco is so high that many would-be residents have elected to move to neighboring Oakland — in turn pushing up housing costs in some neighborhoods there as well.

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3. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.
> Median household income: $79,841
> Population: 933,835 (57th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.8% (tied-167th highest)
> Poverty rate: 8.9% (tied-8th lowest)

As of 2012, the Bridgeport metro area had one of the highest median incomes in the nation, at close to $80,000. Additionally, nearly 22% of the area’s households made over $200,000, the highest percentage in the nation. Contributing to the Bridgeport area’s wealth, the percentage of residents working in the high-paying finance and professional services sectors were among the highest in the nation last year. But the area also had the nation’s second-highest income inequality, as measured by its Gini index score. While crime and poverty have long been problems in Bridgeport, neighboring cities such as Greenwich are home to some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals.

2. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va.
> Median household income: $88,233
> Population: 5,804,333 (7th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.6% (46th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 8.4% (4th lowest)

Last year, 17% of households in the Washington, D.C., area had over $200,000 in income, higher than all but two other metro areas. Among the reasons for the area’s high income are a highly skilled workforce, with more than one in every five workers employed in high-paying professional services fields, more than anywhere else in the U.S. In May, The Wall Street Journal noted the area’s economy has expanded beyond government in recent years, and that past federal spending has contributed to the development of a skilled and well-connected professional workforce. Additionally, the Washington, D.C., area population is one of the nation’s most highly educated, with 48.2% of residents holding at least a bachelor’s degree, more than all but a handful of other metro areas.

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
> Median household income: $90,737
> Population: 1,894,388 (32nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.6% (112th highest)
> Poverty rate: 10.8% (28th lowest)

Median income in the San Jose metro area, which constitutes part of Silicon Valley, jumped from $85,736 in 2011 to $90,737 last year. San Jose had among the largest concentrations of high-paying professional services and information jobs in the nation. But the area is not only the wealthiest in the nation, it has also become one of the most-desired housing markets. Just 3.6% of housing units were vacant in 2012, down from 4.9% in 2008, while median gross rent reached $1,560 last year, more than any other metro area in the U.S. Home values also were the highest in the nation, with a median of $624,200. More than 20% of homes in the area were valued at over $1 million.