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 Where Americans Are Getting Richer

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PostSubject: Where Americans Are Getting Richer   Where Americans Are Getting Richer I_icon_minitimeTue Nov 30, 2010 10:32 am

Greensboro, N.C., might not be the best place to find a steady job. But if you've already got one, chances are you're doing better than you were a couple of years ago.

The city's unemployment rate is 9.8%, nearly a point above the still-high national average. But those with college degrees who have managed to keep their jobs during the recession have seen their median income jump to $53,400 in 2010 from $48,900 in 2007.

Sarasota, Fla., tells a similar story. The city carries a frightening unemployment rate of 12.6%. Yet its median income has increased to $51,100 from $47,400.

Depressed. Struggling. Discouraged. These are the cities where Americans are getting richer?

Compared with the rest of the country, yes. "We're not talking gangbuster wages here," says Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at, a Seattle, Wash.-based provider of employee compensation data. "Raise increases have been generally flat nationally over the last couple of years, so a few points make a big difference."

To determine the places where Americans are getting richer, PayScale studied the compensation of college graduates for which it had data--about 1.5 million people--in the 100 most populous Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the country, ranking each city by compounded income growth between 2007 and 2010.

Why are these middle-of-the-road cities succeeding? Rochester and Poughkeepsie, N.Y., didn't have a housing boom, so they didn't have a bust, either. "Slow and steady cities benefited," says Lee. Same with places like Pittsburgh, Penn., where the big business is in medicine and education. In Thousand Oaks, Calif., biotech reins. "These are industries that weren't as affected by the recession," says Lee.

Cities like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago may garner higher median incomes, but their major industries are more cyclical. Publishing, finance and media are all in flux at the moment. Education, government and medicine are more stable--and the cities that rely on those industries are as well.

Greensboro, for instance, has a low 2010 median income--$53,400--compared with the national median income of college graduates, which is over $58,000. But it has something most cities with higher median incomes or reliance on construction don't: an economic backbone supported by businesses in the insurance field, manufacturing and education. These industries might not be growing rapidly, but they aren't disappearing either--so for now, a steady income is better than a high income.

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