Detailed Findings & Methodology
The vast majority of Americans rely on employment to earn a steady income. The most prosperous metro areas in the country often have relatively strong job markets, as evidenced by low unemployment. The March 2018 unemployment rate in the United States was 4.1%. In 17 of the 25 cities on this list, the March jobless rate was equal to or lower than the U.S. figure. In eight cities on this list, less than 3% of the labor force was out of work in March.
While a healthy job market is important for any metro area’s economy, the kinds of jobs available contribute significantly to income levels. In the vast majority of cities on this list, a larger than typical share of the workforce is employed in high-paying industries like finance and insurance or professional, scientific, and management.
Of course, such high-paying jobs often require higher education and skill levels. Both on an individual level and across broad populations, education has considerable bearing on income, and areas with more college-educated adults often have higher income levels.
In the United States, 31.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The share of college-educated adults exceeds the national share in all but three of the wealthiest cities. In 12 metro areas on this list, over 40% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree. In three, over half of the adult population has a four-year college degree.
Income inequality is a growing problem in the United States. The disparities are often especially apparent in major cities, where great wealth can exist alongside abject poverty. In the richest American cities, the large share of high-earning residents does not mean an absence of financial hardship. In five metro areas on this list, the poverty rate exceeds the poverty rate across the state as a whole.
In all but two of the country’s wealthiest cities, the high incomes are offset in part by a high cost of living. Raleigh, North Carolina, and California-Lexington Park, Maryland, are the only metro areas to rank among the wealthiest in the country where goods and services are less expensive than they are nationwide on average. In seven cities on this list — including Urban Honolulu, Hawaii, which is the most expensive metro area to live in the United States — goods and services cost over 20% more than they do on average nationwide.
One of the most impactful components of cost of living is housing costs. In every metro area on this list, the typical home is worth more than $205,000 — the national median home value. In eight cities on this list, the typical home is worth over half a million dollars.
To identify the richest cities in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. We identified the 25 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas with the highest median household incomes. Poverty rates, median home values, and educational attainment rates also came from the ACS. Unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are as of March 2018, the most recent period for which data is available. Cost of living by metro area, or regional price parity, is for 2015 and came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.