Kaid Benfield Archive


Personal income stats: older cities in the East & Midwest are rebounding

Kaid Benfield

Posted February 1, 2011 at 1:27PM

, , , ,

  Inner Harbor, Baltimore (by: Kevin Labianco, creative commons license)

Throw out those old notions that the sprawling regions of the Sun Belt are where the economic action is, while traditional regions in the Northeast and West have had their day and will only lose traction from here on.  The facts show that eastern and midwestern metro areas with older, more traditional central cities claimed the biggest gains in personal income in the last decade, while boom-and-bust newer areas showed more evidence of slide.  Personal income per capita for various regions remains all over the place (as does the cost of living), but the years 2000-2009 were much kinder to some places than others in the changes they brought. 

Your top ten metro areas with the biggest personal income gain per capita:

  1. Baltimore   9.7%
  2. Pittsburgh   8.2%
  3. Washington   5.0%
  4. Philadelphia   4.6%
  5. St. Louis   4.4%
  6. Milwaukee   4.2%
  7. Los Angeles   3.5%
  8. Houston   3.2%
  9. Cleveland   2.5%
  10. Chicago   2.3%

Surprising, no?  This comes from an analysis by Wendell Cox in New Geography, adjusting for local inflation in each case.  He writes that “If the top 10 [of 28 total reviewed] contained surprises, the bottom 10 could be even more surprising”:

  1. San Jose   -18.7%  (wow)
  2. Atlanta   -8.3%
  3. Detroit   -7.1%
  4. Dallas-Ft Worth   -5.0%
  5. San Francisco   -3.5%
  6. Tampa-St Petersburg   -3.3%
  7. Portland   -2.5%
  8. Riverside-San Bernadino   -2.2%
  9. Miami   -1.4%
  10. Denver   -0.5%

This is not really an indication of how strong those local economies actually are, but more a report of the direction in which they are moving.  I think it’s encouraging for older cities.  While the implications for land use and sustainability are far from clear, these older cities have many in-town areas ripe for reinvestment if their economies are strong enough to support it.  That's exactly what we want.

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.