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 new 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.
Click through to see the 17 cities that are getting richer.
17. Greensboro, N.C.
2016 Median Household Income: $42,802
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $26,462
Change: 62 percent
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.
Meanwhile, growing incomes still aren’t pushing prices up too high: Greensboro is one of the best places to retire where rent is under $1,000 a month.
16. Norfolk, Va.
2016 Median Household Income: $45,268
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $24,935
Change: 82 percent
Norfolk has a median household income just over $45,000, which is over 80 percent 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, Fla.
2016 Median Household Income: $44,007
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $24,731
Change: 78 percent
Orlando’s 78 percent 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 percent more expensive than they were in 1971.
14. Lubbock, Texas
2016 Median Household Income: $45,499
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $22,915
Change: 99 percent
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, Fla.
2016 Median Household Income: $45,874
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $20,794
Change: 121 percent
Tampa has seen a major boost in its inhabitants’ wages, with the median household income rising above $45,000 a year by 2016. That growth could be a part of why Tampa is one of the best cities to own investment property in.
12. Albuquerque, N.M.
2016 Median Household Income: $48,127
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $25,467
Change: 89 percent
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, Ky.
2016 Median Household Income: $50,661
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $26,531
Change: 91 percent
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, Calif.
2016 Median Household Income: $58,669
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $24,879
Change: 136 percent
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, Tenn.
2016 Median Household Income: $49,891
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $25,801
Change: 93 percent
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, Fla.
2016 Median Household Income: $48,256
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $23,953
Change: 101 percent
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
Change: 93 percent
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, Co.
2016 Median Household Income: $56,227
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $25,839
Change: 118 percent
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: It’s one of the cities where your paycheck stretches the furthest.
5. Laredo, Texas
2016 Median Household Income: $39,548
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $14,247
Change: 178 percent
Incomes in Laredo are still under $40,000 a year for the median household, but that represents a 178 percent jump since the beginning of the 1970s, when median incomes were below an inflation-adjusted $15,000. What’s more, even today, it’s still an affordable place to live: Laredo is one of the 50 cheapest cities to retire.
4. Corpus Christi, Texas
2016 Median Household Income: $52,154
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $22,654
Change: 130 percent
The coastal Texas city of Corpus Christi is currently sitting at over $50,000 a year for its median household income, a 130 percent 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, N.C.
2016 Median Household Income: $58,641
1969-1970 Median Household Income: $27,135
Change: 116 percent
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
Change: 113 percent
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
Change: 148 percent
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.
Click through to see which cities are getting poorer.
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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.
About the Author
Joel Anderson is a business and finance writer with over a decade of experience writing about the wide world of finance. Based in Los Angeles, he specializes in writing about the financial markets, stocks, macroeconomic concepts and focuses on helping make complex financial concepts digestible for the retail investor.