The United States is a changing country, and different parts are changing in some profoundly different ways. In some cities, that change has been on what would appear to be a distinctly positive trajectory, with incomes rising sharply in recent history.
Based on a study from GOBankingRates, there are at least 17 cities in the country that are getting significantly richer since the end of the 1960s. The study considered a range of factors like median household income, population and poverty rates, and then compared the levels in 1969 to 1970 to levels in 2016 to determine which ones are seeing their level of prosperity rise the fastest. Median household income from 1969 to 1970 has been adjusted for inflation for all cities.
Last updated: Nov. 2, 2021
17. Greensboro, North Carolina
2016 Median Household Income: $42,802
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $26,462
Greenboro had a median household income of just over $25,000 in 1969 to 1970 — adjusted for inflation — so although its current figure of just over $40,000 might be below the national median, it’s still a sign of real progress for the city.
16. Norfolk, Virginia
2016 Median Household Income: $45,268
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $24,935
Norfolk has a median household income just over $45,000, which is over 80% higher than it was at the close of the 1960s. And for someone who’s been living and thriving there that entire time, there might not be any reason to make a change when your career ends: Norfolk is one of the best cities to retire rich.
15. Orlando, Florida
2016 Median Household Income: $44,007
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $24,731
Orlando’s 78% gain on its median household income at the dawn of the 1970s is an impressive shift for the city. But for any big Disney World fan, it’s just not enough. Disney World tickets are now 457.11% more expensive than they were in 1971.
14. Lubbock, Texas
2016 Median Household Income: $45,499
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $22,915
Lubbock has just about doubled its median household income over the last 45 years or so, but that hasn’t put the city out of reach for any retirees looking to stretch their nest egg: It’s among the best cities to retire on a budget of $1,000 a month.
13. Tampa, Florida
2016 Median Household Income: $45,874
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $20,794
Tampa has seen a major boost in its inhabitants’ wages, with the median household income rising above $45,000 a year by 2016.
12. Albuquerque, New Mexico
2016 Median Household Income: $48,127
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $25,467
Not only has Albuquerque managed to grow its median household income from an inflation-adjusted $25,000 a year to just under $50,000, but it hasn’t let that major growth in income push up the cost of living there. Albuquerque is the best place in the state to live on a fixed income.
11. Lexington, Kentucky
2016 Median Household Income: $50,661
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $26,531
Not only do Lexington residents now make a median household income over $50,000 a year, but they’re less likely to see that income drained away by excessive housing costs. The cost of an average apartment there is just $725 a month.
10. Bakersfield, California
2016 Median Household Income: $58,669
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $24,879
Located between the hubs of wealth in Southern and Northern California, Bakersfield has shown that even outside California’s biggest cities there has been real growth in recent decades, with Bakersfield climbing above the national median household income.
That said, if you’re well below the average for the city, you might still find Bakersfield a great place to call home as it’s one of the best cities to live in if you make minimum wage.
9. Nashville, Tennessee
2016 Median Household Income: $49,891
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $25,801
Music City has always been playing the song “We’re In the Money,” with a median household income that was just over an inflation-adjusted $25,000 a year in the 1969-1970 period. Today, that’s just under $50,000 a year.
That said, it could be that the increase in relative prosperity is also driving a real estate market that’s getting much harder for the people of Nashville.
8. Jacksonville, Florida
2016 Median Household Income: $48,256
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $23,953
Jacksonville has seen incomes adjusted for inflation more than double over the last several decades, turning it from a city where people were struggling to make ends meet to one where the median household income is approaching that of the nation as a whole.
That said, rising incomes might have consequences: Jacksonville is among the least affordable cities for foodies.
7. El Paso, Texas
2016 Median Household Income: $43,322
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $22,503
El Paso’s $43,322 a year for a median household might not sound like a lot, but it’s a big jump over an inflation-adjusted $22,503 from 1969-70.
It’s also potentially plenty to enjoy your time living in South Texas: It’s one of the cities where you can afford to live off of $50,000 or less.
6. Colorado Springs, Colorado
2016 Median Household Income: $56,227
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $25,839
Colorado Springs has seen its median household income more than doubled since the late 1960s. And those extra earnings will go further there than most places.
5. Laredo, Texas
2016 Median Household Income: $39,548
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $14,247
Incomes in Laredo are still under $40,000 a year for the median household, but that represents a 178% jump since the beginning of the 1970s, when median incomes were below an inflation-adjusted $15,000.
4. Corpus Christi, Texas
2016 Median Household Income: $52,154
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $22,654
The coastal Texas city of Corpus Christi is currently sitting at over $50,000 a year for its median household income, a 130% increase over where it was just a few decades ago. And those growing wages could be a sign of an improving local economy: Corpus Christi is one of the best cities to score your dream job.
3. Raleigh, North Carolina
2016 Median Household Income: $58,641
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $27,135
Although the median household income of $58,641 is the second-highest in this study, it might still not be enough if you’re living in Raleigh: You need just over $60,000 a year to live comfortably in the city.
2. San Antonio
2016 Median Household Income: $48,183
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $22,641
San Antonio is another city where the median household income has more than doubled — after adjusting for inflation — since the 1969-70 level. That has taken that figure from just over $22,000 then to nearly $50,000 today.
Compare Salaries: How Do You Stack Up To the Average Income in Your State?
1. Austin, Texas
2016 Median Household Income: $60,939
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $24,621
Austin has the highest median household income in the present of the cities included in this study and the only one that’s broken the $60,000 a year barrier. That considerable growth in wages would appear to have something to do with the strong local economy as Austin is one of the best cities in the U.S. to start a small business.
Everything Is Richer in Texas
If there’s one clear takeaway from this study, it’s that Texas is seeing a sharp increase in median household incomes in its state over the last several decades, particularly for those cities that were struggling in 1969-1970.
Not only are there six different Texas cities on this list — the only other states with more than one are Florida (three) and North Carolina (two) — but Texas has five of the top seven. That includes some marked improvements for some of these cities, with both Corpus Christi and Laredo seeing their poverty rates fall by almost 30 percent over that time period.
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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.