Cities with the Biggest (and Smallest) Paychecks

December 10, 2012 |

Santa Clara, CA

It’s holiday season, and we love our lists — shopping lists, things to do in the New Year, etcetera. Payscale.com has come up with a nifty list of its own — the cities where people, on average, earn the biggest paychecks. Does this help you in your job search? Mileage will vary, depending on your skills and interests, and keep in mind that the top two metro areas are in the Bay Area, where the cost of living and real estate are higher than just about everywhere else. But if nothing else, it provides us with an interesting picture of cities that seem to have above-average economies.

To generate the list below, Payscale.com collected career and salary information from over 35 million people in the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (based on 2010 Census estimates), and calculated  median pay for workers with at least a bachelor’s degree, across three experience levels: starting (5 or less years of experience), mid-career (10 or more years of experience) and overall (all years of experience). And just to satisfy the Grinch in all of us, Payscale.com also includes the cities with the smallest paychecks — both top-5 lists are below. 

The 5 U.S. Cities Where People Earn The Biggest Paychecks

No. 1 Best-Paying City: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
Overall median pay: $93,100
Starting median pay: $68,600
Mid-career median pay: $128,000

No. 2 Best-Paying City: San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
Overall median pay: $73,500
Starting median pay: $57,200
Mid-career median pay: $108,000

No. 3 Best-Paying City: Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.
Overall median pay: $68,700
Starting median pay: $53,300
Mid-career median pay: $95,500

No. 4 Best-Paying City: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va.
Overall median pay: $67,300
Starting median pay: $52,600
Mid-career median pay: $101,000

No. 5 Best-Paying City: Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas
Overall median pay: $66,700
Starting median pay: $53,200
Mid-career median pay: $94,600

The 5 U.S. Cities Where People Earn The Smallest Paychecks

No. 1 Worst-Paying City: Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Penn.
Overall median pay: $45,400
Starting median pay: $36,800
Mid-career median pay: $60,400

No. 2 Worst-Paying City: McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
Overall median pay: $45,600
Starting median pay: $39,000
Mid-career median pay: $62,100

No. 3 Worst-Paying City: Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.
Overall median pay: $46,500
Starting median pay: $40,000
Mid-career median pay: $60,100

No. 4 Worst-Paying City: El Paso, Texas
Overall median pay: $46,900
Starting median pay: $39,600
Mid-career median pay: $60,100

No. 5 Worst-Paying City: Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Penn.
Overall median pay: $47,400
Starting median pay: $38,400
Mid-career median pay: $63,000

About Ho Lin

Ho Lin is an editor at Military.com. His interests include naval history, the New York football Giants, and loud rock music.

Comments

  1. Awceez says:

    Do thoise California pay chex AFTER the 50% ! taxes are TAKEN out!! HAha

  2. Ken says:

    It is said that there are three kinds of falsehoods: Lies, damned lies, and statistics. It is also said that a good statistician can make the numbers say whatever he wants them to say, and that a good pollster can produce the desired result for his client.

    That being said, I question the validity of Ho Lin's ratings, since he did not factor in state and local taxes. If the starting pay in the best city/area is $68,600, but state and local governments take 10%, then the net is $61,740. And that's before federal taxes, which could take another 17%, reducing it down to $51,244.

    I fear Mr. Lin's figures are "less than accurate" once all the facts are known.

  3. Lea says:

    In defense of Lin, he does state at the beginning of the article, ". . . keep in mind that the top two metro areas are in the Bay Area, where the cost of living and real estate are higher than just about everywhere else. But if nothing else, it provides us with an interesting picture of cities that seem to have above-average economies."

  4. P.C. says:

    I dont know where they got Scranton,Wilkes-Barre as having such high wages….try 12000 to start IF your lucky and BEFORE taxes!

  5. Garrett says:

    Pensacola, FL is $10,000 less than any if the lowest cities listed!

    • Jackson, MP says:

      Garrett, you are definitely correct. I recently moved from NJ, where pay sounded decent until you factored the cost of living, to Pensacola, where the cost of living sounds great, until you factor in the lack of jobs (at any pay rate) and low rate of pay.

    • Jackson, MP says:

      I recently moved from NJ, where pay sounded decent until you factored the cost of living, to Pensacola, where the cost of living sounds great, until you factor in the lack of jobs (at any pay rate) and low rate of pay.

  6. Nick says:

    Best paying cities are also among highest cost of living. So really nothing different than the worst paying. They are not paying at least 2k for rent.

  7. James gibbs says:

    Okay, so California looks so great with those high wages in the Bay Area, BUT our rents and the taxes are absurd! Even a small one bedroom apartment will run about $1,000 to 1,200 a month. Gas taxes per gallon for the state is the same as the federal tax, making it about 56cents tax per gallon. Let's not forget the state income tax: Probably the highest in the nation. Now do those wages sound so great???? A California veteran and resident for 56 years.

  8. Sailor1 says:

    What a joke. $52k in DC is like $20k in S. Florida. This is a lousy article.

    • Daniel says:

      52k in DC is like 20k also. The cost of living is insanely high here. Its hard to find a place to live under 1300-1400 a month that is in a decent part of town.

  9. John says:

    Nick;

    I used to live in Houston TX have to tell you its cost of living is nothing the cost of living in California. I do agree the article is limited.

  10. Tim says:

    Why not do your own research on http://www.bls.gov, and I agree cost of living has to be factored in.

  11. top dog says:

    Mostly so called "Red States" with the worst and lowest paycheck. The stats are not based on take home pay, it's based on annual income. The reason why "cost of living" is not factered in is because, it varies from city to city. Like Joe Friday say, "just the facts mam!"……..I noticed Dallas is not in the top best.

  12. joel says:

    I live in Lakeland and I make way than the average. While working a job, build your own business and you'll do just fine!

  13. Chris says:

    Chris

    With the top two cities in Calif. the state should be back on their feet in a
    couple of years with them people to tax the bucks out of!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. jlepfaff says:

    Last year NPR did a great series on Living in the Middle where they profiled different families across the country who earned squarely the average middle class salary at the time– about 50K. It highlighted the difference between take home pay and buying power. I was struck by a single PR professional who moved from St Louis where she was making 30K-something to DC where she was making 49K who felt that she had way less buying power in DC than in St. Louis. These kinds of lists are really a form of lazy journalism. A far more enlightening and revealing report would list highest buying power for your dollar with average salary.

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