Think Seattle’s rich?


@Gene Balk Apr 18
2 min. read

After my last column on Seattle’s soaring incomes, I heard from a lot of readers who were dismayed at the prospect of the city becoming a playground for the wealthy.

Well, folks, you might want to sit down before reading about what’s happening on the other side of the lake.

Most notable among Eastside cities is Sammamish, which had a median household income last year of a whopping $183,000. That ranks No. 1 among all the 630 cities for which the Census Bureau produced 2018 income data. It also marks the first time that a Washington city has come out on top for household income.

The median figure represents a midway point — in other words, half the households make more, and half make less.

The Census Bureau produces single-year income estimates for all cities with a population of at least 65,000. The bureau separately produces income figures for less-populated cities and towns, too, but only by using data that is averaged out over a five-year time period.

To be fair, when the margin of error for these income estimates is taken into account, we can’t really say with certainty that Sammamish’s median income is higher than the cities close behind it in the rankings.

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And where are those cities right behind Sammamish? You guessed it: California. The next five cities are, in fact, all in the Bay Area. San Ramon and Palo Alto have the second- and third-highest estimated incomes, in that order.

This year is the first time that the Census Bureau has produced single-year income data for Sammamish because the city only just passed the 65,000-population mark in 2018.

Sammamish isn’t the only Eastside city to grow past 65,000 last year. Redmond did too. In fact, Microsoft’s hometown has been among the fastest-growing places in Washington this decade — its population has increased by about 24% since 2010.

And Redmond is also one of the most affluent. It debuted in the 11th place for income among the 630 cities, with a median of $135,000.

Kirkland was already large enough to have data produced in 2017. The data shows that the city saw an impressive $13,000 increase in its household median last year, hitting nearly $120,000. That ranks 29th highest among the 630 cities.

Bellevue, by far the Eastside’s largest city, had a median of about $114,000 in 2018, which ranks 34th.

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All four of these Eastside cities don’t just have higher median incomes than Seattle — they also exceed San Francisco.

In total, there were 19 cities in Washington with populations of at least 65,000 in 2018. It’s a sign of how quickly our state is growing, because at the start of the decade, there were only 14 cities large enough for the Census Bureau to produce single-year data. The five cities that grew past 65,000 since 2010 are, in addition to Sammamish and Redmond, Kirkland, Marysville and Pasco.

Of the 19 cities, the 12 highest for median household income are all in the Seattle metro area. But they represent a wide range from Sammamish to Everett and Tacoma, both at about $63,000.

The cities with the lowest median incomes are mostly in Eastern Washington. Bellingham is the exception, and that’s because the city, home to Western Washington University, has a very large student population.

Nationally, the median household income was about $62,000 in 2018.