You Need to Get Paid This Much to be in the Top Half of Earners

by howmuch

What does it mean to be rich? An oft-cited study from a few years ago suggests that money does in fact buy happiness—to a point. Earning an annual income of $75,000 is directly correlated to personal fulfillment, but earners above that threshold reported less happiness than we might expect. So which cities have average salaries at the magic number of $75k per year? Check out our new visualization.

We gathered average household income figures from the U.S. Census Bureau for the top 50 most populated metro areas for 2016, the latest year for which numbers were available. We then plotted each city as a slice on an exploding pie chart. This lets you quickly and easily see how much money your household would need to make to be in the top 50% of earners in your area.

1.     San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $110,040

2.     San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $96,677

3.     Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $95,843

4.     Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH: $82,380

5.     Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: $78,612

6.     Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD: $76,788

7.     Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI: $73,231

8.     Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT: $72,559

9.     Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO: $71,926

10.    New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: $71,897

Only one metro area crosses the $100k mark for average household income (San Jose, CA), and only two surpass $90k (San Francisco and Washington DC). The top two are clearly at an advantage thanks to Silicon Valley—computer engineers no doubt add to the average income figure. Washington DC makes the top three because of its proximity to American political power. Lobbyists and government contractors have to get paid after all.

The bad news is that only six cities surpass the threshold of $75k for maximizing personal happiness. Every other metro area falls somewhere below—sometimes not even half as much—as their more prosperous counterparts. New Orleans, LA is way down at the very bottom, where the average household only brings in $48.8k. In fact, 37 of the top 50 metro areas have average income levels below $70k. Of course, there are certainly people who make six figures living in every city in the country. But our graph shows that, all things being equal, the odds of making at least $75k will remain out of reach for the clear majority of Americans.

But it all depends on where you live. Making six figures means a family is in the middle class in Silicon Valley, but for most of the country, that much money would be a dream come true. Check out our cost of living calculator to gain a deeper understanding for exactly how far an average salary goes in your city.

Data: Table 1.1

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