These Cities Are Getting Richer — But Are They More Expensive?

Find out how affordable these thriving cities are today.

Cities are like living organisms, and as such, they can change significantly over the course of their lifetime. People come and go, neighborhoods rise and fall, businesses start and fail, all of which have a significant impact on cities — especially their finances.

GOBankingRates conducted a study to determine which U.S. cities used to be poor and are now rich. Using U.S. Census data from 1970 and the 2016 American Community Survey, the study analyzed per capita incomes, household incomes and poverty levels, and the respective change in all three over time.

Keep reading to find out which cities saw the greatest change in wealth over roughly the last four decades, and see just how affordable these places are today.


Cities That Used to Be Poor, Now Are Rich

The 17 cities listed in the study all had per capita incomes of less than $3,000 in 1970, which is about $19,672 in 2018 dollars. This was the threshold used to determine which cities began “poor.”

Incomes, both individual and household, increased dramatically in these cities, as did their resident populations. The average growth in population was 326,080, or approximately 206 percent; and the average increase in household income was $25,409, or about 109 percent.

Texas is home to six of the top 17 cities that have become richer over the last 40 years: Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Laredo, El Paso and Lubbock. Laredo had the lowest household income in 1970 at $14,247, whereas Austin saw the greatest growth overall, from $24,621 to $60,939 — an increase of 148 percent.

Find Out: How Rich You’d Be If You Bought a Home in These Cities 20 Years Ago

Affordability in Cities Getting Richer

Seeing cities grow and flourish is all well and good, but there are always consequences for these types of changes. One of the most notable is the effect on housing and affordability. Prosperity brings more businesses and more people, which inevitably leads to greater demand for housing and thus higher home prices.

According to Zillow’s latest data, the median rent for the U.S. is $1,690. And on the whole, housing in these 17 cities is still affordable. The cheapest of the top cities is El Paso with a median monthly rent of $994, whereas Austin is the most expensive at $1,799 a month.

Check out the full list of the top 17 cities below, including their household incomes and populations:

RankCityStateHousehold Income, 1970Household Income, 2016Population, 1970Population, 2016
2San AntonioTX$22,641$48,183587,7181,492,510
4Corpus ChristiTX$22,654$52,154204,525325,733
6Colorado SpringsCO$25,839$56,227135,517465,101
7El PasoTX$22,503$43,322276,687683,080

Click through to read about the best and worst places to live if you’re trying to save money.

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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined which U.S. cities used to be poor and are now rich by analyzing 82 major cities in terms of the following factors: (1) per capita income in 1970, per capita income in 2016, and change over time; (2) median household income in 1970, median household income in 2016, and change over time; (3) population in 1970, 2016 and change over time; (4) poverty rate in 1970, 2016 and change over time, all sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau.