Seattle median household income soars to $93,500

But wealth doesn’t reach everyone, census data shows.

By Gene Balk / The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Everybody knows that Seattle has become a very affluent city, but even so, this is remarkable news.

The city’s median household income jumped nearly $7,000 in 2018, hitting a record $93,500, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Seattle is not like the rest of America. Nationally, incomes inched up by less than 1% last year, landing at $62,000.

The median income represents the midway point — in other words, half the households earn more, and half earn less. So that means that in Seattle, nearly half (48%) of its 338,000 households pull in a six-figure income.

Only two major cities have a higher median income than Seattle, and you could probably guess which ones they are: San Francisco ($112,000) and San Jose ($113,000).

Since the start of the decade, Seattle incomes have risen by more than 50%, or about $33,000 (not adjusting for inflation). That increase in dollar amount ranks third highest among the 50 largest U.S. cities. All of the top five are either in the Bay Area (San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland) or in the Northwest (Seattle and Portland).

You can count these cities among the winners in the new tech-centered economy. Others are not so lucky. While the median income increased in every major city, many saw much more modest change. In Memphis, incomes increased by only $150 since 2010 — if adjusted for inflation, that would mean incomes have actually declined.

Why are incomes soaring in Seattle? If it sounds like everyone got big fat raises, that’s probably not what happened. A more likely scenario is that a lot of high-paying new jobs were created, pushing up the median. Software developer last year became the most common occupation in Seattle, overtaking retail sales. Software developers in Seattle earn, on average, more than $100,000 a year.

And of course, as more of the city gentrifies, housing costs have gone way up, and some folks on the lower end of the income scale have been priced out. Only 19% of Seattle households have an income of less than $35,000, according to the new data.

Nationally, the percentage of households earning less than $35,000 (28%) is nearly the same as the percentage earning $100,000 or more (29%).

While Seattle’s overall median income figure is very high, there are striking disparities among the income figures for the city’s racial and ethnic communities. The median income for households headed by a white person is about $105,000, which is the highest. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the median for a household headed by a black person is just $42,500. Nearly half (45%) of black households in Seattle have an income of less than $35,000, the data shows.

So what does it take to be considered rich in Seattle these days? It’s subjective, of course, but census data shows that for the top 5% of Seattle households, the average income is now $609,000.

More in Herald Business Journal

Boeing asks that its big state tax break be suspended

The company hopes the move will resolve a trade dispute involving European rival Airbus.

Boeing finds debris in wing fuel tanks of several 737 Maxs

The company did not say what the objects were found, but one report said they included tools and rags.

Charge: Lynnwood tobacco smuggler dodged $1 million in taxes

The man, 57, reportedly dealt in illicit cigarettes. Tax returns claimed he sold hats and T-shirts.

Some dissent emerges on new engineering contract with Boeing

“This is being shoved down our throats,” said one SPEEA council rep.

FAA faces dilemma over 737 Max wiring flaw that Boeing missed

The vulnerability could lead to an emergency similar to the one that brought down two jets.

Everett’s new passenger terminal gets some national love

Paine Field was voted 8th-best among a selection of small airports, some of which aren’t all that small.

United pushes back expected return of grounded Boeing planes

United, Southwest and American are bracing for a second straight summer without their Max planes.

US manufacturing output hit by Boeing troubles, slips 0.1%

Excluding the production of airplanes and parts, factory production rose 0.3%.

Boeing and engineering union agree on new, extended contract

The board of SPEEA will recommend the proposal to its 18,000 members in the Puget Sound area.

Airbus CEO sees no short-term benefit from Boeing Max woes

The European planemaker’s competing A320 is sold out through 2025.

Virus outbreak in China poses a new problem for Boeing

A number of deliveries are ready for Chinese customers who “cannot come to Seattle to take delivery.”

Boeing wins zero orders and delivers just 13 jets in January

Airbus by comparison had a big order month, winning net orders for 274 commercial aircraft.