GOBankingRates

Paychecks Are Getting Bigger in These Boomtowns

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Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

As cities with higher costs of living continue to become more and more expensive, it’s not uncommon for people to seek out alternative places to live. Boomtowns are such places because they offer incentives, such as a more affordable cost-of-living or a higher paycheck — or both.

GOBankingRates analyzed U.S. cities with populations of 500,000 or less and based boomtown status on increasing income and economic growth based on five-year changes, from 2012 to 2017, in the areas of population, number of housing units, per capita personal income and five-year per capita personal income growth. When you’re considering where you should live, you’ll want to consider these boomtowns that offer high salaries.

Last updated: Nov. 6, 2020

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30. Worcester, Massachusetts

  • Income increase: 15.1%
  • Population increase: 1.8%
  • Housing increase: 0.4%
  • GDP increase: 19.8%

Although Worcester is considered a boomtown, it ranked last on the list of the top 30, partly because it’s in the bottom three for the percentage increase for population. It’s also in the bottom three for the percentage increase for housing.

Read: How Much You Need To Be in the Top 5% in Every State

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29. Manchester, New Hampshire

  • Income increase: 12.4%
  • Population increase: 0.7%
  • Housing increase: 1.4%
  • GDP increase: 25.4%

Manchester landed this far down on the list due to its low percentage increases for population and housing as compared to other cities on the list. Its GDP increase, however, landed just outside the top 10, equaling a $5,765 increase from 2012 to 2017.

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28. Albany, New York

  • Income increase: 17%
  • Population increase: 0.6%
  • Housing increase: 1.5%
  • GDP increase: 18.7%

Albany saw the lowest percentage increase in population over the five-year period out of all of the cities on the list. Its percentage increase for housing is also in the bottom 10. Its income increase, however, falls not quite a percentage point below the average for the list at 17.9%, going from $47,750 to $55,848 in five years.

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27. Oxnard, California

  • Income increase: 18.5%
  • Population increase: 4.7%
  • Housing increase: 0.1%
  • GDP increase: 11.4%

Regarding the percentage increase in population, Oxnard falls in the bottom 10 out of the 30 cities. Its GDP increase is in the bottom two for the list. Its income increase percentage, however, is above the list’s average of 17.9%, going from $49,937 to $59,178 in five years.

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26. Richmond, Virginia

  • Income increase: 15%
  • Population increase: 7.6%
  • Housing increase: 1.4%
  • GDP increase: 22.4%

Richmond’s percentage increase in housing placed in the bottom 10 among cities surveyed in this study. Also, its income increase fell a bit shorter than the average, though its GDP increase enjoyed a significant jump.

Find Out: How Much You Need To Live Comfortably in 50 Major US Cities 

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25. Ann Arbor, Michigan

  • Income increase: 18%
  • Population increase: 4%
  • Housing increase: 1.9%
  • GDP increase: 18.5%

Ann Arbor’s 18% increase in income just slightly exceeds the list’s average of 17.9%. Its percentage increase in housing narrowly escaped the bottom 10, but its percentage of GDP growth increase didn’t.

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24. Santa Maria, California

  • Income increase: 16.3%
  • Population increase: 6.2%
  • Housing increase: 0.7%
  • GDP increase: 19.3%

Both Santa Maria’s percentage increase in income and GDP are below average for the list. The percentage increase in population, however, falls only slightly below average for the list: 6.2% versus 7.19%.

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23. Des Moines, Iowa

  • Income increase: 13.1%
  • Population increase: 5.1%
  • Housing increase: 2.4%
  • GDP increase: 37.7%

Out of all the boomtowns on the list, Des Moines experienced the biggest percentage increase in gross domestic product — a $15,640 gain from 2012 to 2017. It ranked in the bottom five, however, for the percentage increase in income.

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22. Minneapolis

  • Income increase: 16.3%
  • Population increase: 6.9%
  • Housing increase: 1.2%
  • GDP increase: 21.6%

Minneapolis’ population increase ranks about average for the list. The city’s GDP increase and income increase percentages don’t fall too far below average, either. However, its percentage increase in housing ranks in the bottom 10 for the list.

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21. Honolulu

  • Income increase: 17.4%
  • Population increase: 2.7%
  • Housing increase: 4.7%
  • GDP increase: 22.1%

As far as percentages of housing and GDP increases go, Honolulu ranks above average for the list. Its percentage increase for income is just below average at 17.4%. But the percentage increase for population ranks in the bottom five for the list.

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20. Sacramento, California

  • Income increase: 20.6%
  • Population increase: 4.7%
  • Housing increase: 1.1%
  • GDP increase: 26%

Sacramento ranks in the top 10 for the percentage increase in GDP. When you compare salaries by city, its income increase is almost 3 percentage points higher than the list’s average — going from $44,596 to $53,783 during the five-year period. Its percentage increases in housing and population, however, rank in the bottom 10 for the list.

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19. Omaha, Nebraska

  • Income increase: 8.7%
  • Population increase: 12.2%
  • Housing increase: 9.7%
  • GDP increase: 24%

From 2012 to 2017, Omaha saw the third-highest population increase among all other cities ranked, which makes it one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. The city also ranked in the top five for the percentage increase in housing, equaling 17,334 new homes.

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18. Bremerton, Washington

  • Income increase: 17.5%
  • Population increase: 3.3%
  • Housing increase: 9%
  • GDP increase: 21.3%

Bremerton ranks in the bottom five on the list regarding the percentage increase in population. The city ranks in the top 10 for the percentage increase in housing, however, with 1,536 new housing units between 2012 and 2017.

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17. Port St. Lucie, Florida

  • Income increase: 18%
  • Population increase: 9.2%
  • Housing increase: 4.4%
  • GDP increase: 21.1%

Port St. Lucie ranks in the top 10 for the highest percentage increase in population, which places it among growing cities to keep an eye on. It also ranks slightly above the average percentage increase in income. Port St. Lucie saw a income increase of $8,010 from 2012 to 2017.

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16. Madison, Wisconsin

  • Income increase: 17.5%
  • Population increase: 6.1%
  • Housing increase: 4.7%
  • GDP increase: 28%

Madison has higher-than-average GDP and housing increases when compared to other cities on the list. The city realized 5,089 new housing units during the five-year period from 2012 to 2017. Its percentage increase in income is slightly below average, however.

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15. Santa Cruz, California

  • Income increase: 20.5%
  • Population increase: 6.1%
  • Housing increase: 0.9%
  • GDP increase: 23.3%

When looking at the increases in salary by city, Santa Cruz’s percentage increase in income is in the top 10 for the list, and its GDP increase is only 1 percentage point below average. The city’s percentage increase in housing, however, is ranked in the bottom five for the list.

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14. Durham, North Carolina

  • Income increase: 15.8%
  • Population increase: 11.9%
  • Housing increase: 8.6%
  • GDP increase: 14.8%

Durham rounds out the top five for cities that saw the largest population increase, by percentage, between 2012 and 2017, when the city welcomed 27,269 new residents. Durham ranked in the bottom three, however, for the percentage increase of gross domestic product.

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13. Charlottesville, Virginia

  • Income increase: 17.9%
  • Population increase: 7.6%
  • Housing increase: 5.8%
  • GDP increase: 22.4%

Charlottesville’s percentage increase in income over the five-year period is exactly average for the list. The city’s percentage increase in housing is above average for the list: 5.8% versus 4.5%, respectively. Its GDP increase is below average for the list but not dramatically.

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12. Miami

  • Income increase: 17.7%
  • Population increase: 10.2%
  • Housing increase: 4.7%
  • GDP increase: 29.4%

Miami ranks in the top 10 for the highest percentage increase in population and could be considered one of the up-and-coming cities on the list. Its percentage increase in income is only slightly below average for the list, and its percentage increase in GDP is 5 percentage points higher than the list’s average.

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11. San Luis Obispo, California

  • Income increase: 23.9%
  • Population increase: 3.7%
  • Housing increase: 4.1%
  • GDP increase: 26.2%

San Luis Obispo ranks in the top five for the highest percentage increase in income. The city realized a $10,661 change over five years. The city ranks in the bottom 10, however, for the percentage increase in population.

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10. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

  • Income increase: 13.2%
  • Population increase: 10.3%
  • Housing increase: 10.3%
  • GDP increase: 23.5%

Sioux Falls ranks in the top five cities that experienced the biggest percentage increase in housing between 2012 and 2017, equaling 6,818 new homes. The city ranked in the bottom 10, however, for five-year change in gross domestic product by dollar.

See: How Do You Stack Up to the Average Income in Your State?

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9. Bismarck, North Dakota

  • Income increase: 8.1%
  • Population increase: 13.9%
  • Housing increase: 14.9%
  • GDP increase: 23.7%

Out of all of the cities on the list, Bismarck saw the second-highest percentage increase in population. This boomtown also saw the biggest increase in the percentage of housing units — 14.9% — between 2012 and 2017, increasing from 28,926 to 33,231 homes. The city ranks in last place on the list, however, for the percentage increase in income.

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8. Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Income increase: 15%
  • Population increase: 11%
  • Housing increase: 10.3%
  • GDP increase: 33%

Raleigh is one of the top five cities on the list that saw the most significant population increase by percentage. It also made the top five for the greatest percentage increase in housing — 10.3% — equaling 18,204 new homes.

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7. Fayetteville, Arkansas

  • Income increase: 23.4%
  • Population increase: 10.4%
  • Housing increase: 0.4%
  • GDP increase: 37.6%

Fayetteville ranks No. 2 for the highest percentage increase of gross domestic product, equaling a five-year change of $7,792. The city also ranks in the top 10 for one of the highest population increases.

Find Out: The Richest Small Town in Every State

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6. Reno, Nevada

  • Income increase: 26.5%
  • Population increase: 5.9%
  • Housing increase: 3.6%
  • GDP increase: 36.7%

Reno saw the second-highest percentage increase in income overall, which earns it a place among the highest-paying cities on the list. The city saw an $11,630 five-year change in wages. It also saw the third-highest percentage increase in gross domestic product, following both Fayetteville and Des Moines.

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5. Santa Rosa, California

  • Income increase: 28.6%
  • Population increase: 4.2%
  • Housing increase: 2%
  • GDP increase: 33.8%

Compared to all other cities on the list, Santa Rosa saw the largest percentage increase in income during the five-year period. The city experienced a $13,408 five-year change in wages. Although its percentage increases for housing and population are below average, its percentage increase in GDP ranks fifth highest on the list.

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4. Boulder, Colorado

  • Income increase: 24.3%
  • Population increase: 7.2%
  • Housing increase: 4.9%
  • GDP increase: 22.3%

Boulder ranked No. 3 on the list for the percentage increase in income. The city realized a $13,278 five-year change in wages. It also ranked in the top 10 for the percentage increase in housing, equaling 2,102 new homes.

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3. Sebastian, Florida

  • Income increase: 20.9%
  • Population increase: 9.3%
  • Housing increase: 5.5%
  • GDP increase: 23.5%

Sebastian ranks in the top 10 for the highest percentage increase in population, with a five-year population change of 2,042. It also ranks in the top 10 for the highest percentage increase in income due to its five-year wage increase of $12,647.

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2. Santa Fe, New Mexico

  • Income increase: 17.2%
  • Population increase: 21.5%
  • Housing increase: 11.9%
  • GDP increase: 9.5%

Out of all the other cities on the list, Santa Fe experienced the largest population increase from 2012 to 2017 — 14,682 new residents — which makes it one of the fastest-growing cities on the list. It also experienced the second-highest increase in the percentage of housing units, which resulted in 4,406 new homes.

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1. Naples, Florida

  • Income increase: 22.8%
  • Population increase: 6.8%
  • Housing increase: 3.8%
  • GDP increase: 34%

Naples made the top five on the list for highest gross domestic product increase, by percentage — realizing a five-year change of $4,624. Plus, the city barely landed outside the top five for the percentage increase in income. Although the city was below average for the list regarding housing and population increases, it wasn’t by much — less than 1 percentage point each.

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Should You Live in a Boomtown?

People often move to boomtowns to enjoy a lower cost of living, a less tax burden, job growth and the ability to afford a home.

For example, the lower cost of renting or buying a home could allow you to live downtown or in the inner suburbs — areas which can prove financially out-of-reach in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Because boomtowns grow at different rates in different areas, it’s important to research factors, such as growth and cost of living before you decide to move.

Whereas one boomtown might be an excellent place to move, another might be on the cusp of challenges, such as dealing with an insufficient infrastructure, that makes moving there less than desirable.

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Methodology: GOBankingRates analyzed 347 major U.S. cities along the following criteria in order to determine which “boomtowns” are seeing increasing incomes, as well as economic growth: (1) five-year change in population, from 2012 to 2017, (2) five-year change in the number of housing units, both sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey; (3) five-year change in GDP, from 2012 to 2017, sourced from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which has this metric on the metropolitan area level; (4) per capita personal income and (5) five-year per capita personal income growth, sourced from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which has this metric on the metropolitan area level. For a city to be considered among the final list of cities, their change in population, housing units and per capita personal incomes must be positive, and current per capita personal incomes must be higher than the current national level of $51,640. In order to focus on “boomtowns,” a 500,000 population maximum restriction was used on the cities.