Incomes increase by up to 30% from pre-pandemic levels in some US cities
A photo of a street view of San Bernadino, California
In general, median earnings across the U.S. rose just 3% over two years, but some cities saw up to 10 times that income growth. While such disparities can be due to a variety of causes, residents in these cities had economic tailwinds to help them through recent cost of living increases.
To see where income increased most, SmartAsset examined Census Bureau data for 124 of the largest cities in the country and ranked them by the size of income changes between 2019 and 2021.
Median income grew by more than 30% in these cities. In just two years, the median household income grew by 31.3% in San Bernardino, CA, and 30.2% in Huntsville, AL.
New York and San Francisco both saw income losses between 2019 and 2021. The median household income fell 2.03% to $69,997 in New York and 1.64% to $121,826 in San Francisco. They were among 15 cities that had two-year income declines, including Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which saw income fall nearly 10% to $45,819.
These North Carolina cities saw particularly high income growth. The median household income in Winston-Salem and Fayetteville increased 21.65% and 17.90%, respectively, between 2019 and 2021.
Nine cities have a median income over $100k. Fremont, CA, has the highest median household income in the country at nearly $156,000; followed by Frisco, TX ($130,118); and San Jose, CA ($126,377).
Incomes fell by more than 7% in these cities. Baton Rouge, LA, had it worst with a 9.96% income decrease over the span of two years – from $45,819 annually to $41,257. Laredo, TX (8.75%); Orlando, FL (7.91%); and Cincinnati, OH (7.62%) also experienced particularly high drops in median income.
Let’s have a closer look at the 10 cities where income grew the most between 2019 and 2021
A chart of the top 15 cities where income has increased most
1. San Bernardino, CA
No place had a larger two-year income increase than San Bernardino. This city of more than 220,000 in Southern California saw its median household income jump 31.35%, going from $49,721 in 2019 to $65,311 in 2021. However, very few households (6.93%) in San Bernardino earn $100,000 or more per year.
2. Huntsville, AL
Alabama’s most populous city had the nation’s second-largest jump (30.21%) in median household income from 2019 to 2021. Median-earning households that made $54,342 in 2019 were earning $70,757 two years later. Of the 10 places where income rose the most over that two-year stretch, Huntsville has the highest percentage of households earning $100,000 per year (14.97%).
3. Moreno Valley, CA
The median household income in Moreno Valley increased 21.99% from 2019 to 2021, going from $65,449 to $79,840. Nearly 10% of the households in this city of 211,000 people earn $100,000 or more per year.
4. Winston-Salem, NC
The median household income in Winston-Salem rose to $54,228 in 2021 – a 21.65% increase from two years earlier. In 2019, households earning the median income made just $44,576. Meanwhile, just under 10% of households in Winston-Salem earn at least $100,000 per year.
5. Toledo, OH
Toledo saw a 20.27% jump in the median household income over this two-year stretch. The city’s median household income of $36,709 was third-lowest in 2019 but has since risen to $44,150 (eighth-lowest). Only 6.43% of all households in this northwestern Ohio city earn $100,000 or more per year.
6. Fayetteville, NC
The median household income in Fayetteville rose 17.90% between 2019 and 2021, going from $43,789 to $51,629. Located in central North Carolina, Fayetteville is home to approximately 15,000 households (7.11%) that earn $100,000 or more per year.
7. Indianapolis, IN
The median household income in Indianapolis went from $49,661 in 2019 to $58,479 in 2021 – a 17.76% increase. Meanwhile, 9.97% of all households (46,874) in Indiana’s capital city earn $100,000 or more per year.
8. Stockton, CA
Stockton, a city of 322,000 people, saw a 17.38% increase in the median household income between 2019 and 2021. A household earning the median income here would have gone up from $59,504 to $69,844 in those two years. Meanwhile, just under 10% of all households in Stockton make at least $100,000 per year.
9. Fontana, CA
Fontana, which sits nine miles west of San Bernardino, recorded the ninth-largest income increase (16.15%) over the same two-year period. In 2021, the median household income reached $93,851 – higher than all but 13 of the 124 cities with available data. Of the 10 cities where income has increased most, Fontana has the second-highest percentage of households earning at least $100,000 (12.43%).
10. Fresno, CA
The fifth California city in the top 10, Fresno recorded a 15.22% increase in the median household income between 2019 and 2021. A typical household would have seen their wages rise to $61,250 during that time. Meanwhile, 9.58% of households in the city of 544,000 people earn $100,000 or more per year.
Data and methodology
This study examined available data for cities with a population of 200,000 or higher. Population data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau 1-Year American Community Survey for 2021. Household median income data comes from the 1-Year American Community Surveys from 2019 and 2021.
To rank the cities, we subtracted the 2019 median household income from 2021 median household income for each place. The cities were then ranked based on the percentage increase over the two-year period.