It’s official: San Francisco is the richest urban area in America

Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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The thriving, technology-driven wealth of the Bay Area is the envy of the rest of America, with good reason.

According to the latest data from the US Census Bureau, San Francisco tops the list of the 25 largest metropolitan areas by household income. The median household in the San Francisco area earned nearly $97,000 last year, an increase of $8,000 from 2015.

San Francisco’s median income just edged last year’s top metro area, Washington DC, which boasts middle-class incomes of just under $96,000 in the latest data. (These estimates derive from surveys of a small group of people in each place, so it isn’t statistically certain that San Franciscans are now truly richer than Washingtonians.) San Francisco more comfortably outpaced Boston, Seattle, and New York: New York’s median household income is some $25,000 below the Bay Area’s.

Not only is San Francisco the richest metropolitan area, household incomes there are also among the fastest growing. Only earnings in Charlotte, North Carolina grew faster from 2015 to 2016. Overall, metro areas in the south saw the largest boost to median incomes (3.9%), followed by states in the west (3.3%). States in the northeast and midwest saw little to no changes to paychecks last year.

Houston saw the slowest growth among large metro areas, at 0.3% last year. That’s less than a tenth of the growth the US experienced as a whole (3.2%). While Houston’s population exploded thanks to the combination of plentiful oil jobs and affordable housing, declining oil prices in recent years have strained the economy. (Since the latest data covers incomes through 2016, it doesn’t include the effects of Hurricane Harvey.)

Back in San Francisco and DC, do residents of the country’s technology and political hubs feel as rich as the statistics suggest?

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, San Francisco, Washington, and New York are the most expensive large metropolitan areas in the US. After adjusting for how far a paycheck goes in these places, the relative wealth of San Francisco is less lofty, worth around $79,000 to households in other cities. Accounting for living costs, San Francisco also gets knocked off the top spot, with Washington DC becoming the richest metro area, relatively speaking.